Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Picture the Dead

Jennie is an orphan, living with her aunt's family during the American Civil War. It is a cold, loveless household, particularly with her two cousins off fighting in the war. She loves both cousins - one as a brother, and the other as something more. But only one brother returns to them, and unfortunately, it is is not the one she was hoping to marry.

Soon it becomes clear that there are mysteries surrounding her fiance's death - and her surviving cousin Quinn, a shell of his former self, knows more than he is letting on.  Jennie feels that the spirit of Will has returned to his family, and she is determined to discover the truth about how he died.  When her aunt insists they visit a photographer who claims to be able to photograph the spirits of dead loved ones, Jennie is skeptical.  But the resulting photo is certainly unusual, and it leads to even more unanswered questions.

Ghosts, spiritualism, mystery, romance, and a sense of menace and desolation pervade this eerie novel.  The illustrations are a fascinating and integral part of the story, which is essentially Jennie's scrapbook of her experiences.  I did find the tiny, crabbed handwriting that accompanied the illustrations to be tiny and difficult to read, particularly the letters that accompanied the text.  But I did enjoy this historical ghost story.

Fans of A Drowned Maiden's Hair will particularly enjoy this one, as will fans of historical mysteries and ghost stories in general.  It's a quiet, eerie story, rather than an overtly frightening one.  There is also an informative section at the back of the book for readers who are interested in learning a bit more about the Civil War and spiritualism.

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown (Sourcebooks, 2012)

Source: Review copy from publisher

Also reviewed at:
Bookish Blather: "Brown's illustrations really add to the story, giving us glimpses into the scrapbook that Jennie keeps throughout the story. My one complaint is that the writing in the illustrations, as Jennie keeps many letters and writes captions, is only readable if you're sitting on a couch in a well-lit room."
My Friend Amy:  "I have to admit to feeling a bit disappointed it wasn't a little creepier, and even though the book isn't long, I still felt the story could have been condensed a little bit. But it was still an enjoyable read and a different kind of story."
Small Review:  "If you like books likeThe Thirteenth Tale then read it. If you want a good ghost story (even if you’re a wimp like me) then read it. Even if you don’t like historical fiction, read it."


  1. i enjoyed this book. It was the details of the photography that mostly attracted me. My son is studying photography. When I went to the author's website she told us which photography book had inspired her, so I just had to find a copy of that book for my son. He found it rather amusing how to make spirit photos.

  2. Heather - That's interesting! Did your son try his hand at any special effects photos? (If he did, you should post some - I'd love to see them!)


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