August 4, 2010

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin
Illustrations by Lisa Brown

Jennie’s connection with her twin brother, Toby, grew stronger after he died in 1864. Now Jennie must rely on her ability to communicate with the dead to find out what has happened to her beloved fiance, Will, while he was off at war. The army says he died honorably in battle. His brother confides that he became a violent criminal and died in a prison camp. Jennie begins to doubt that anyone is telling her the truth. This intriguing combination of historical romance, paranormal thriller, and clever mystery is illustrated by bestselling artist Lisa Brown. The unique visuals originated from real Civil War daguerreotypes that were transformed into eerie mementos for Jennie’s scrapbook. With the help of a spiritualist photographer, the spirit of her dead fiance, and the clues she discovers and keeps in her scrapbook, Jennie must put together the pieces of this mystery before she loses her home, her fortune, and possibly her life.

Jennie is 16 years old, and has suffered crushing losses over and over again. After finding out her fiance died in battle Jennie knows that her time spent in his family's house is borrowed. All this, and loosing her twin brother, Toby, who refuses to leave her side makes Jennie's life anything but ordinary. One of the things I really like about a historically set novel is the formality of the narrator. I don't know why but it's always so novel for me, and Jennie doesn't disappoint in this aspect. She rather spot on. Picture the Dead is set during the American Civil War, and the attention to historical details was another aspect of this book that I really liked. Jennie didn't drag on and on being overly descriptive; which a lot of historical novels tend to do. She got to the point, said what she had to say, and moved on.

Now here is where I have to say the things I didn't like. Read that summary? Great. Think it was a ghost story about a girl who speaks to the dead? Me too. Lemme tell you this book has paranormal-ish aspects, but it's not a paranormal. It's a book about a girl who lost her whole family, her fiance and twin brother to the war. Her twin brother stands in the background, and ever so often Jennie feels him there and remembers him. Tragic, yes, but not paranormal in the sense that I thought it would be. I thought she would communicate with the dead or but Jennie doesn't actually communicate with anyone dead. She mentions feeling her brother's presence but he never talks to her. Neither does her fiance. I went into this book thinking it was one thing, and I found out it was more a mystery set during the Civil War. The real story lies in wondering what Jennie will do now seeing as she's a women without a father, brother, or husband to take care of her, and in learning how Will, her fiance, really died. 

In all honesty I truly enjoyed this book, but it wasn't what I thought it was going to be about. It was intriguing and had me turning the pages, but definitely not a paranormal. I liked how it ended, I liked how it was written, and I look forward to reading my next Adele Griffin book. She's a writer I really think I could keep picking up.

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