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A Shadow on the Lens

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The Postmaster looked over my shoulder. As I turned to look I saw a flicker of movement from across the street. I felt unseen eyes peer at me. He walked away without another word. I watched as he climbed onto his bicycle and sped away down the street. I turned back and looked over my shoulder. Someone had been watching us. 1904. Thomas Bexley, one of the fir The Postmaster looked over my shoulder. As I turned to look I saw a flicker of movement from across the street. I felt unseen eyes peer at me. He walked away without another word. I watched as he climbed onto his bicycle and sped away down the street. I turned back and looked over my shoulder. Someone had been watching us. 1904. Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers, is called to the sleepy and remote Welsh village of Dinas Powys, several miles down the coast from the thriving port of Cardiff. A young girl by the name of Betsan Tilny has been found murdered in the woodland - her body bound and horribly burnt. But the crime scene appears to have been staged, and worse still: the locals are reluctant to help.As the strange case unfolds, Thomas senses a growing presence watching him, and try as he may, the villagers seem intent on keeping their secret. Then one night, in the grip of a fever, he develops the photographic plates from the crime scene in a makeshift darkroom in the cellar of his lodgings. There, he finds a face dimly visible in the photographs; a face hovering around the body of the dead girl - the face of Betsan Tilny.


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The Postmaster looked over my shoulder. As I turned to look I saw a flicker of movement from across the street. I felt unseen eyes peer at me. He walked away without another word. I watched as he climbed onto his bicycle and sped away down the street. I turned back and looked over my shoulder. Someone had been watching us. 1904. Thomas Bexley, one of the fir The Postmaster looked over my shoulder. As I turned to look I saw a flicker of movement from across the street. I felt unseen eyes peer at me. He walked away without another word. I watched as he climbed onto his bicycle and sped away down the street. I turned back and looked over my shoulder. Someone had been watching us. 1904. Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers, is called to the sleepy and remote Welsh village of Dinas Powys, several miles down the coast from the thriving port of Cardiff. A young girl by the name of Betsan Tilny has been found murdered in the woodland - her body bound and horribly burnt. But the crime scene appears to have been staged, and worse still: the locals are reluctant to help.As the strange case unfolds, Thomas senses a growing presence watching him, and try as he may, the villagers seem intent on keeping their secret. Then one night, in the grip of a fever, he develops the photographic plates from the crime scene in a makeshift darkroom in the cellar of his lodgings. There, he finds a face dimly visible in the photographs; a face hovering around the body of the dead girl - the face of Betsan Tilny.

30 review for A Shadow on the Lens

  1. 5 out of 5

    sue

    Isn’t this a lovely cover. That’s all..........

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    In 1904 forensic photography is in its infancy, but Thomas Bexley is already recognised as one of its foremost exponents. His experience in scene-of-crime examination has also honed his investigative skills such that, despite not being formally an “inspector” (as he will be the first to admit), he has been retained by Scotland Yard as a specialist investigator. And so it is that on a bright summer’s day in June, he sets off to Dinas Powys, a rural village in South Wales, where he has been asked In 1904 forensic photography is in its infancy, but Thomas Bexley is already recognised as one of its foremost exponents. His experience in scene-of-crime examination has also honed his investigative skills such that, despite not being formally an “inspector” (as he will be the first to admit), he has been retained by Scotland Yard as a specialist investigator. And so it is that on a bright summer’s day in June, he sets off to Dinas Powys, a rural village in South Wales, where he has been asked to assist with an inquiry into the gruesome murder of a young woman, Betsan Tilny. Bexley prides himself in being rational and scientific, with much confidence in his skills. He does not believe in God and still less in talk of spirits, ghosts and suchlike nonsense. So, when the villagers start to blame the quasi-ritual killing on the Calon Farw, the monster supposedly roaming the woodlands around the village, Bexley is quick to dismiss this talk as idle superstition. He is also equally unconvinced by the convenient thesis of Robert Cummings, head of the local council, that the murder has been carried out by an elusive “band of gypsies”. Bexley’s confidence starts to ebb when he falls prey to strange visions and hallucinations which seriously challenge his certainties. Over the course of a feverish week in June, as he searches for the identity of the murder, he will face horrors human and supernatural: “it marked the change in my life, the death of the man I once was”. My reactions to the novel were not unlike that of its protagonist. From the blurb, I was expecting a cosy, neo-Victorian murder mystery with a hint of the supernatural, my type of light summer read. With Bexley’s arrival at Dinas Powys, however, things take a decidedly sinister turn and the novel quickly moves into folk horror realm: the investigator is a rational outsider in a superstitious village where a young girl has been brutally murdered, a legendary monster is supposedly lurking in the woods, the inn where Bexley is staying could possibly be haunted and, to boot, the villagers clearly know more than they’re letting on. Bexley was not expecting his investigation to become so complicated – in my case, I did not expect the novel to become so unsettling. Shockingly for a supposed jaded fan of ghost stories, I found myself freaking out during a key scene in the crypt of an abandoned hamlet. Sam Hurcom has published children’s stories. This is his debut novel, and I would suggest keeping it out of the reach of kids – it’s chilling stuff. I must admit that there were some aspects of the book which did not fully convince me. Thus, whilst the style generally has an “authentic” ring to it, there were some anachronisms here and there, including the use of “Ms.” for “Miss”, in a diary supposedly dating from 1904. One should also not expect much character development – as in much crime fiction, the story is mainly plot-driven. Ultimately, however, the book delivers. And whilst A Shadow on the Lens is enjoyable as a “historical crime” novel, with plenty of red herrings along the way, what marks it from a crowded market is its unexpectedly dark, folk horror element which is conveyed very effectively. Huron, who was raised, and still lives, in Dinas Powys, claims to be inspired by the landscape of the area. If that’s the case, I would rather not roam there at night. https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/20...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    "So strange was all that happened, many cannot even begin to comprehend it. Yet still I write this. Believe me or do not - most think me as madman. On cold nights such as this, I often wish I were." A Shadow On The Lens appealed to me with its promise of a historical gothic fiction with mystery and, cherry on the top, the character is a forensic photographer. The fact the cover looked amazing didn't hurt either, to be honest. For a debut novel, I was impressed. While this book doesn't bring anyth "So strange was all that happened, many cannot even begin to comprehend it. Yet still I write this. Believe me or do not - most think me as madman. On cold nights such as this, I often wish I were." A Shadow On The Lens appealed to me with its promise of a historical gothic fiction with mystery and, cherry on the top, the character is a forensic photographer. The fact the cover looked amazing didn't hurt either, to be honest. For a debut novel, I was impressed. While this book doesn't bring anything new to the genres it touches, which might be why some people were disappointed, it still does it well. It's not a long book and the pages turned very fast once I began to read it. The author might not bring us a groundbreaking novel to the genre, but he knows how to write, he obviously loves the genre itself and managed to keep me on the edge on my seat, wanting absolutely to know what would happen next. The writing feels very real, which makes some scenes (well, especially one) a bit creepy. You can easily enter this story and picture exactly what the narrator sees. Overall, this a success in my opinion, especially for a debut novel, and I hope to read more from this author in the future.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shalini

    What a book!! Chilling and creepy. A crime occurred in 1904 and a young girl Betsan Tilny was found murdered in the woods. Thomas Bexley, a forensic photographer, who consulted with the police was called to take photographs. While developing them he found a shadow hovering over the girl. Was that the shadow on the Lens or the beginning of something creepy and evil entering this village? My first book by Sam Hurcom, I expected a murder mystery, but what I got was a story which caused a shiver to s What a book!! Chilling and creepy. A crime occurred in 1904 and a young girl Betsan Tilny was found murdered in the woods. Thomas Bexley, a forensic photographer, who consulted with the police was called to take photographs. While developing them he found a shadow hovering over the girl. Was that the shadow on the Lens or the beginning of something creepy and evil entering this village? My first book by Sam Hurcom, I expected a murder mystery, but what I got was a story which caused a shiver to start from the core of my being. I love horror and when this book showed signs of creeping into that genre, I could barely contain my excitement. The author's writing blew my imagination away at the scenes that were set to scare me. Evil was never so gory as described in this prose. I loved how the tale of evil creature of Carlin Farw quickly overtook the minds of the people and the main character. Thomas Bexley was metamorphosed well from a man who didn't believe in supernatural to someone who, under the feverish hallucinations, changed his outlook, brought his strength to the forefront, and used all his courage to expose the murderer. Clues and twists made it more exciting. Many scenes creeped me out as the author set forth an atmopshere so dank and dreary with superstitions flying. The book was the perfect example of sinister, dark gothic folk tale which had my heart dancing out in its strange rhythm. I didn't warm up to main character, but I sure warmed up to the atmosphere of this book where reality and beliefs clashed to produce this storm of a book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    St Jerome

    A stifling, atmospheric gothic crime novel with a unique protagonist and killer twist - if you enjoyed reading The Woman in Black, The Silent Companions and Little Strangers, this book is for you. The Shadow on the Lens is an historical crime thriller, with a dark gothic feel and a touch of the supernatural thrown in for good measure. This book is full of memorable characters and suspects, a creepy and atmospheric setting and a tense and thrilling plot; a spine tingling read. 3.5 Stars....

  6. 4 out of 5

    John

    Many decades before satellite notebooks and fiber-optic cable made even the remotest location accessible, forces of nature worked to isolate communities. Here, a monsoon-like storm has knocked out the finicky telegraph line, and halted train service to the town. Meanwhile, our hero realizes more and more that he needs to summon reenforcements as the plot grows thicker. Not quite five stars as I found myself wanting to wrap things up a few chapters before the author does so. However, the writing i Many decades before satellite notebooks and fiber-optic cable made even the remotest location accessible, forces of nature worked to isolate communities. Here, a monsoon-like storm has knocked out the finicky telegraph line, and halted train service to the town. Meanwhile, our hero realizes more and more that he needs to summon reenforcements as the plot grows thicker. Not quite five stars as I found myself wanting to wrap things up a few chapters before the author does so. However, the writing itself held my attention well as we go from scene to scene. As luck would have it, during a bout of insomnia well after midnight I listened to one of the creepiest scenes I've run across (trapped in a makeshift crypt with a decomposing corpse). If you're a fan of horror (thriller), you'd love it! I'm hoping for another story from this author as the protagonist is one who'd be terrific for a series. Speaking of terrific, the audio narration is first-rate. Reader truly brought the story to life - highly recommended!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty ❤️

    I really enjoyed this folk horror gothic thriller. It starts off with Bexley arriving in a small Welsh town to look into a murder of a teenage girl and them he seems to descend into a fever induced madness, seeing ghosts and envisioning a whole host of horrors. Nothing is what it seems and secrets are unearthed the more he digs. You can really sense the creepiness of the village and I wasn't expecting how it all eventually comes together. Bexley takes a bit of warming to and I wonder if some of I really enjoyed this folk horror gothic thriller. It starts off with Bexley arriving in a small Welsh town to look into a murder of a teenage girl and them he seems to descend into a fever induced madness, seeing ghosts and envisioning a whole host of horrors. Nothing is what it seems and secrets are unearthed the more he digs. You can really sense the creepiness of the village and I wasn't expecting how it all eventually comes together. Bexley takes a bit of warming to and I wonder if some of that was his behaviour whilst in the throws of his fever rather that his natural state. Overall though really enjoyed reading something a little different and genuinely unsettling.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Juliet Bookliterati

    The Shadow on the Lens is an atmospheric, gothic, historical crime novel set in Wales. Narrated by the main character Thomas Bexley, a forensic photographer sent to the remote village Dinas Powys to investigate the death of a young woman, Betsan Tilny, who appears to have been brutally murdered. A soon as he arrives he realises that all is not as it first seems, there are secrets kept within the village and old susperstitions hinder his investigation. This is a wonderfully dark tale, with memora The Shadow on the Lens is an atmospheric, gothic, historical crime novel set in Wales. Narrated by the main character Thomas Bexley, a forensic photographer sent to the remote village Dinas Powys to investigate the death of a young woman, Betsan Tilny, who appears to have been brutally murdered. A soon as he arrives he realises that all is not as it first seems, there are secrets kept within the village and old susperstitions hinder his investigation. This is a wonderfully dark tale, with memorable characters and an unreliable narrator, culminating in a shocking conclusion. Thomas Bexley is a unique, unreliable and incredibly interesting narrator of this dark and chilling murder investigation.  In 1904 Forensic Photography is still a fairly new scientific breakthrough, but one that was life changing for the police.  Thomas is more than just a photographer though, he is treated by the London Police as an honorary Inspector after his years of experience, which is why he finds himself in Wales on his own.  Once there he becomes ill with a fever, but he won't let it stop his investigation and carries on regardless.  This fever makes him have hallucinations, claiming to see the murdered girl in one of his photographic plates, and a paranoia that someone is watching him.  This adds to the drama and suspense of the book, and leaves the reader and Thomas questioning  what is real and what is not. The setting of this book, in a small and quiet village, gives a feeling of claustrophobia. The villagers are distrustful of someone new in their midst and not willing to give anything away. They are very superstitious and believe an evil spirit, Calon Fawyr, is responsible for the murder of Betsan Tilny.  The stormy weather, secrets, and unreliable narration add to the gothic and uneasy feel of this novel. The darkness only intensifies as the plot progresses and the investigation moves forward, building the tension and suspension that had me on the edge of my seat with my pulse raised. The Shadow on the Lens is a superb historical crime thriller, with a dark gothic feel and a touch of the supernatural thrown in for good measure.  Thomas Bexley is a brilliant narrator, his descent into a madness that comes from the fever adds suspense, apprehension, and uncertainty to the his investigation.  This book is full of memorable characters and suspects, a creepy and atmospheric setting and a tense and thrilling plot; a spine tingling read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lel Budge

    Betsan Tilney has been murdered and her body burnt. Due to the local villagers superstitions, her body is being kept in an abandoned church. They feel the Death is the result of the demon, Calon Fawr. Thomas Bexley, a forensic photographer is sent to document the evidence, but he is unwell with a fever and starts to see things …including a shape over the body in one of his photographs …or is it just a flaw? He visits Bethan’s mother and while unwell he is certain she told him, “Do not look for her Betsan Tilney has been murdered and her body burnt. Due to the local villagers superstitions, her body is being kept in an abandoned church. They feel the Death is the result of the demon, Calon Fawr. Thomas Bexley, a forensic photographer is sent to document the evidence, but he is unwell with a fever and starts to see things …including a shape over the body in one of his photographs …or is it just a flaw? He visits Bethan’s mother and while unwell he is certain she told him, “Do not look for her with your eyes”…. Will Thomas find the killer, or is there something even darker walking in the village? This is a creepy, gothic supernatural mystery in the vein of Poe and Lovecraft, there are even rats scratching in the ceiling….if like a historical, supernatural mystery then you’ll love this. Thank you to Tracy and Compulsive Readers for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour and for the promotional materials and a free copy of the ebook. This is my honest, unbiased review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    Thomas Bexley is a forensic photographer for the Met who is sent to a small village in Wales to investigate the killing of a teenage girl. The locals are closed mouthed and can't imagine it would be anyone from the village. Meanwhile, Bexley is fighting off a particularly vicious virus that is impacting on his judgement. This was a decent debut novel, I loved the front cover, but there were one or two minor issues I had. The novel is set in 1904 and the hero addressed an unmarried woman as Ms wh Thomas Bexley is a forensic photographer for the Met who is sent to a small village in Wales to investigate the killing of a teenage girl. The locals are closed mouthed and can't imagine it would be anyone from the village. Meanwhile, Bexley is fighting off a particularly vicious virus that is impacting on his judgement. This was a decent debut novel, I loved the front cover, but there were one or two minor issues I had. The novel is set in 1904 and the hero addressed an unmarried woman as Ms which didn't reach popularity until the 1970s and certainly wouldn't have been recognised in a small village. He also kept referring to a band of gypsies as travellers which seemed unlikely for the time period as most people wouldn't have known the difference. Other than that, nothing has put me off reading more from this author.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    A chilling story. This appears to start out as a straightforward murder mystery set in 1904, but soon becomes a supernatural thriller. It is very atmospheric and the crypt scene is pure gothic horror. The story starts off slowly but picks up pace in the second half. Once the momentum has built up, there are lots of plot twists. Unfortunately I couldn't take to the main character. He was arrogant and rude. In addition, the minor characters were one dimensional. Overall though it was a quick and in A chilling story. This appears to start out as a straightforward murder mystery set in 1904, but soon becomes a supernatural thriller. It is very atmospheric and the crypt scene is pure gothic horror. The story starts off slowly but picks up pace in the second half. Once the momentum has built up, there are lots of plot twists. Unfortunately I couldn't take to the main character. He was arrogant and rude. In addition, the minor characters were one dimensional. Overall though it was a quick and interesting read.I I received a free review copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest and unedited review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa Wild

    A gothic style thriller set in 1904. Forensic photographer Thomas Bexley is called to the small village of Dinas Powys in Wales to investigate the horrific murder of a young girl. There he comes across suspicious minds and silent villagers who are not anything away, plus there appears to be some sort of presence. 👻 This story did take me quite a while to get into the swing of things, but I enjoyed it once I did. It’s a slow burner and the style of writing is very pertinent to the era it’s set in. A gothic style thriller set in 1904. Forensic photographer Thomas Bexley is called to the small village of Dinas Powys in Wales to investigate the horrific murder of a young girl. There he comes across suspicious minds and silent villagers who are not anything away, plus there appears to be some sort of presence. 👻 This story did take me quite a while to get into the swing of things, but I enjoyed it once I did. It’s a slow burner and the style of writing is very pertinent to the era it’s set in. It’s atmospheric and creepy with a hint of the supernatural. Thomas Bexley is an interesting narrator and I thought he really grew into his character by the end of the tale. I liked him! There’s an intriguing plot with a few twists and turns which kept me turning the pages. It did have me wondering what on earth was going on at times, but it all came together quite nicely by the conclusion of the book. All in all an absorbing and gripping historical mystery and debut. I look forward to reading further work by Sam Hurcom.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vicky

    The sense of menace that you get from this book leaps out from the very first page. It’s gothic, it’s creepy, it’s set in the Victorian era… what more do you need? It’s basically the next Woman in Black. In this case, we’re following Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers, as he’s called to the village of Dinas Powys to investigate the murder of a local girl, Betsan Tilny. But something’s amiss. The locals are shifty, and somebody is watching him. Even worse, the murder appears to The sense of menace that you get from this book leaps out from the very first page. It’s gothic, it’s creepy, it’s set in the Victorian era… what more do you need? It’s basically the next Woman in Black. In this case, we’re following Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers, as he’s called to the village of Dinas Powys to investigate the murder of a local girl, Betsan Tilny. But something’s amiss. The locals are shifty, and somebody is watching him. Even worse, the murder appears to have been staged. And then things take a dark turn… Really, this book creeped me out. I was expecting a light paranormal murder mystery; what I got instead was something a lot more complex and dark. The story veers into folklore territory, and we start to learn more about a dark monster lurking in the woods. For a person that wrote children’s books prior to starting his career as a gothic author, Hurcom is a master at ratcheting up the tension: the creepy villagers, the oppressive atmosphere and the Victorian-style language gave me the real heebie-jeebies. I’m bad with horror at the best of times; this had me putting down the book a few times and taking a quick break. A testament to the power of words and the danger of stories, this book is very definitely a gothic masterpiece. Hurcom plays on the reader’s nerves with an expert hand, and by the end, I was a wreck. 10/10 would Hallowe’en again.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

    I was looking forward to reading this book and I was not disappointed. It was easy to engage with all the characters as the authors style brought them to life. The ending had a nice twist and throughout the book there was a hint of the supernatural. I would definitely read another book from this author.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    I really enjoyed how immersed I got with the era, I thought this was handled very well. The writing style and use of language had me right there, and I could picture the village clearly from the atmospheric descriptions. It took a little while for me to get into the story and the characters but the story did then build well for me. I don’t want to say anymore so I don’t give anything away!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Williams

    3.5 of 5 stars https://lynns-books.com/2019/09/12/a-... Shadow on the Lens is a period murder mystery set in the Edwardian Era. The turn of the 19th century saw many changes and swept in a new age of discovery. Forensic photography was a very new area of police work and one that was proving invaluable in the solving of crimes. This is still an age of superstition though and science and the supernatural are battling for supremacy – surely though the camera doesn’t lie? As the story begins we meet Th 3.5 of 5 stars https://lynns-books.com/2019/09/12/a-... Shadow on the Lens is a period murder mystery set in the Edwardian Era. The turn of the 19th century saw many changes and swept in a new age of discovery. Forensic photography was a very new area of police work and one that was proving invaluable in the solving of crimes. This is still an age of superstition though and science and the supernatural are battling for supremacy – surely though the camera doesn’t lie? As the story begins we meet Thomas Bexley as he travels to a small town in South Wales to provide assistance in an inquiry into the death of a local woman. Betsan Tilny is the victim, a young woman of apparently questionable virtue although nobody seems to be able to quite say why or pin down exactly what she has done to incur such dislike. The village seems to be in the grip of hysterical superstition and nobody appears overly anxious to have a newcomer poking around and awakening things that are best left undisturbed. As you might imagine this doesn’t exactly make things easy for Bexley, he struggles with the surly innkeeper, the local Councilman – Cummings – who is in charge of showing him around – and also the locals who are incredibly reluctant to be drummed up for questioning. On top of this Bexley comes down with a violent illness that makes his job twice as difficult and becomes so severe that he can barely function. What I enjoyed about this. The period and attention to detail. I like reading murder mysteries in this historical period where detecting was at its inception and inspectors had to rely more on intellect and gut feelings. I think the author manages to create a really almost claustrophobic atmosphere of small town mentality which makes any detecting that much more difficult as people conspire to obstruct the course of justice. I liked that there were a few red herrings going on along the way and the sense of atmosphere which was overall dark and gloomy, the ominous forest, the dark rooms in the Inn and the positively gothic horror scene at the crypt. The writing was good to be honest but I’m not totally sure that it worked for me. The tale is told by Bexley in the form of his notes, which he obviously tries to keep in the style of a police report. I don’t know whether it was the style in which Bexley reported things or whether it was Bexley himself. I can’t quite decide. He’s not always the easiest to like character, it’s not that he particularly does anything wrong as such but it felt like he started his investigation on the wrong footing, he was expecting it to be too easy, that he’d simply walk in, solve the case and everyone would be astounded. On top of that, for me, there was at least one aspect of this that immediately occurred to me and once it had got inside my head I couldn’t shake it loose, I won’t say why because it would be a spoiler but in some ways I felt a little disappointed that I’d second guessed things. Which isn’t to say I didn’t jump around a little, I wasn’t completely sold on my noton and I followed the red herrings just like Bexley, plus I had no real notions of the whys and wherefores just a wild theory more than anything else I enjoyed that the investigation was hampered by superstition. I thought the scenes in the forest really added to the overall creep factor that really came to a head when Bexley finally went to examine the body in the crypt. In terms of criticisms. I didn’t totally like Bexley, which isn’t to say I wouldn’t like to read more, but at this time I’m not completely bowled over by him. And, I thought the ending felt a little rushed – although I did really like the final chapters. On top of this it felt like the story was held back a little by Bexley’s illness, it felt like it overwhelmed the story a little bit too much. Overall, an entertaining murder mystery with a hint of the supernatural. I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alan Taylor

    Metropolitan Police Special Investigator Thomas Bexley, a forensic photographer whose self proclaimed ‘keen eye for detail when examining crime scenes, and a surprising talent for piecing together evidence, brought many a guilty man and woman before judge and jury’, travels to a small village in south Wales to assist with a murder enquiry. Bexley, fresh off a successful case in Oxford, is rather arrogant and seems to expect this to be a simple case. He is fairly dismissive of the village, ‘quite Metropolitan Police Special Investigator Thomas Bexley, a forensic photographer whose self proclaimed ‘keen eye for detail when examining crime scenes, and a surprising talent for piecing together evidence, brought many a guilty man and woman before judge and jury’, travels to a small village in south Wales to assist with a murder enquiry. Bexley, fresh off a successful case in Oxford, is rather arrogant and seems to expect this to be a simple case. He is fairly dismissive of the village, ‘quite pleasant, if not a little inert’, and of the village people who dress ‘in none of the high fashions of central London’ - Bexley expects to tie this up quickly and return to the metropolis. Things do not go as Thomas expects. Sam Hurcom’s debut is a superb procedural with an interesting, if a little unsympathetic, central character, a confident investigator whose faith in himself and his abilities is shaken as he is drawn deeper into the fate of Betsan Tilney and the feeling that things are spiralling beyond his control. There are some really interesting supporting characters and several stunning twists. Hurcom captures the mannerisms and speech patterns of the times, the deference of many of the villagers to authority. The mannered, first-person prose has the feel of a late 19th or early 20th century gothic novel while retaining a modern readability. The novel is a little Sherlock Holmes, a little The Wicker Man and there are a few scenes which are really scary and skin-crawlingly creepy, scenes Stephen King would be proud of. A SHADOW ON THE LENS is a thrilling read and, as a debut, it makes me intensely anticipate where Sam Hurcom, and Thomas Bexley, go next. Thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part in the BlogTour and to Orion Fiction for the review copy.

  18. 4 out of 5

    G

    Meh. As a photography nut, I was hoping to get some kind of inside look into the technicalities and methods of early 20th century photography, but no. The main character is supposed to be a professional photographer, but it's all tell, don't show (literally. The author, who probably is just as clueless about vintage photography as me, simply takes the "But I won't bore you with the details" route, which I find tremendously lazy and borderline insulting)... which incidentally applies to the rest o Meh. As a photography nut, I was hoping to get some kind of inside look into the technicalities and methods of early 20th century photography, but no. The main character is supposed to be a professional photographer, but it's all tell, don't show (literally. The author, who probably is just as clueless about vintage photography as me, simply takes the "But I won't bore you with the details" route, which I find tremendously lazy and borderline insulting)... which incidentally applies to the rest of the book as well. The protagonist is just bland and featureless, as is the village itself -- no sense of atmosphere whatsoever. The villagers came across as your stock 60's horror movie personnel -- garish, clichéd and unconvincing, without any depth whatsoever. I got very sick very quickly of the constant, über-heavy-handed foreboding the author employs; every couple of pages it's paragraphs of "if only I had known then", "when I look back upon this now, I can't believe (whatever)", "during my long sleepless nights", on and on with the relentless oh-poor-me-histrionics, but for me it all just rang hollow. It's never scary, it just *claims* to be; the protagonist keeps telling us how very, very frightened he is at various points in the story, like some literary game of Chinese whispers, but, well, I simply wasn't feeling it. Stylistically it read like a debut novel as well; lots of redundant phrasing and repetitions, as when the protag goes on and on (AND ON) about his frickin' fever -- YES WE GET IT, YOU FEEL SICK! You felt sick two chapters ago, you felt sick two pages ago, you happened to mention that you still feel feverish *two bloody sentences* ago, WE REALLY REALLY GET IT, THANK YOU! If you happen to be a reader with the attention span of a goldfish, then this book is for you.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Sweeney

    Review originally posted on The Bibliophile Chronicles. This is the dark and creepy tale of Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers who is sent to Dinas Powys in Wales after the body of a young woman is discovered in the woods. Her body is found bound, mutilated and burnt, so the police turn to Bexley to solve the case. As Thomas begins to uncover the case, he finds the locals reluctant to help and a growing sense of unease in the village – could there be more to this brutal murder Review originally posted on The Bibliophile Chronicles. This is the dark and creepy tale of Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers who is sent to Dinas Powys in Wales after the body of a young woman is discovered in the woods. Her body is found bound, mutilated and burnt, so the police turn to Bexley to solve the case. As Thomas begins to uncover the case, he finds the locals reluctant to help and a growing sense of unease in the village – could there be more to this brutal murder than Thomas first thought? This is quite a short book, but it absolutely packs a punch. It’s really dark and eerie, a murder mystery with just that hint of the supernatural. If I hadn’t read this already I would definitely have read this on Halloween because it’s that perfect spooky story. I loved the setting of this story. This sleepy little village where everyone knows each other. As Bexley tries to uncover the secrets behind the murder I loved the way the tension climbed as that feeling of unease grew and grew. Thomas was a really interesting character and I found the Victorian forensic photography so interesting. It was something I didn’t know much about so I really liked seeing him carry out his work. The author has a gorgeous writing style and some of the scenes (particularly the one in the basement!) really sent a shiver up my spine. There are plenty of twists in this that I didn’t see coming, and a fair few scary moments. It’s a quick read because it’s so easy to fall into the story and I am really looking forward to reading more from this author. A Shadow on the Lens is a fantastic debut, a chilling read that fans of Gothic horror will absolutely adore!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    This is a terrific debut novel set in the small and insular village of Dinas Powys, South Wales and it’s full of gothic superstition and atmosphere. Thomas Bexley a forensic photographer is sent to investigate the murder of a young girl Betsan Tilny and he meets with much resistance from the villagers who treat him with suspicion and are unwilling to discuss the gruesome murder. As Thomas becomes more and more frustrated with the lack of support and the hints that something unworldly is possibly This is a terrific debut novel set in the small and insular village of Dinas Powys, South Wales and it’s full of gothic superstition and atmosphere. Thomas Bexley a forensic photographer is sent to investigate the murder of a young girl Betsan Tilny and he meets with much resistance from the villagers who treat him with suspicion and are unwilling to discuss the gruesome murder. As Thomas becomes more and more frustrated with the lack of support and the hints that something unworldly is possibly responsible for the murder he finds himself seized by fever finding it difficult to know what is real or what is fever induced hallucinations. This is a book filled with sinister happenings and it really hits the mark for creepiness. I really did enjoy the read it has lots of twists towards the conclusion and it kept me guessing throughout. So if you like a book that’s different with plenty of chills and gothic terror then here you have it. My thanks to NetGalley and Orion Publishing Group for giving me the chance to read the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    It is 1904 & forensic photography is in its infancy. Thomas Bexley has made something of a name for himself by helping Scotland Yard with their inquiries & so is sent to Wales to investigate the gory death of Betsan Tilsley. From the moment he arrives in the village he is struck by how much the inhabitants seem to mistrust him. The Councillor is unhelpful & the village constable incompetent. Struck down with a fever soon after his arrival it seems everything is conspiring against Bexley. This sou It is 1904 & forensic photography is in its infancy. Thomas Bexley has made something of a name for himself by helping Scotland Yard with their inquiries & so is sent to Wales to investigate the gory death of Betsan Tilsley. From the moment he arrives in the village he is struck by how much the inhabitants seem to mistrust him. The Councillor is unhelpful & the village constable incompetent. Struck down with a fever soon after his arrival it seems everything is conspiring against Bexley. This sounded a really interesting premise for a book. Unfortunately I found it an uninspiring read. I couldn't warm to any of the characters, I found the narrator particularly irritating. I was engaged enough to finish the book but as far as I was concerned, the best bit of this book was it's cover! Thanks to THE Book Club Reviewer's Group, Netgalley & the publisher for letting me read & review this book. I would rate it a 2.5- the cover raised it to a 3!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Munch

    I was sent a arc of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review. This was so creepy, don't read it in the dark! I instantly connected with the main character, I think the first person narrative helped with that. You could cut the tension between him and the villagers with a knife. I had no idea who did it until the end, there were a few red herrings to put you off the scent. The writing is very true to the time period but without it becoming too overly formal. So much through the book I was sent a arc of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review. This was so creepy, don't read it in the dark! I instantly connected with the main character, I think the first person narrative helped with that. You could cut the tension between him and the villagers with a knife. I had no idea who did it until the end, there were a few red herrings to put you off the scent. The writing is very true to the time period but without it becoming too overly formal. So much through the book I found it hard to figure out whether the main character was really experiencing everything he thought he was, you find it hard to tell horror from reality along with him. There was a lot of victim blaming which is true to the historical context but the main character always stands up for her throughout. I highly enjoyed this, I couldn't put it down, I definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical murder mystery with a dash of horror.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lel Budge

    Betsan Tilney has been murdered and her body burnt. Due to the local villagers superstitions, her body is being kept in an abandoned church. They feel the Death is the result of the demon, Calon Fawr. Thomas Bexley, a forensic photographer is sent to document the evidence, but he is unwell with a fever and starts to see things …including a shape over the body in one of his photographs …or is it just a flaw? He visits Bethan’s mother and while unwell he is certain she told him, “Do not look for her Betsan Tilney has been murdered and her body burnt. Due to the local villagers superstitions, her body is being kept in an abandoned church. They feel the Death is the result of the demon, Calon Fawr. Thomas Bexley, a forensic photographer is sent to document the evidence, but he is unwell with a fever and starts to see things …including a shape over the body in one of his photographs …or is it just a flaw? He visits Bethan’s mother and while unwell he is certain she told him, “Do not look for her with your eyes”…. Will Thomas find the killer, or is there something even darker walking in the village? This is a creepy, gothic supernatural mystery in the vein of Poe and Lovecraft, there are even rats scratching in the ceiling….if like a historical, supernatural mystery then you’ll love this. Thank you to The Author, the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this for free. . This is my honest, unbiased review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    This debut historical crime novel from Hurcom is nothing remarkable but quite readable, with its smattering of the supernatural making it a timely read for October. My criticism that there is nothing new here, is quite a personal one, many who enjoy this genre don’t want anything new. A Metropolitan police officer, renowned for his success, arrives in a small South Wales village in 1904 to investigate the murder of a young girl. The writing is good, and the characters believable overall, but the This debut historical crime novel from Hurcom is nothing remarkable but quite readable, with its smattering of the supernatural making it a timely read for October. My criticism that there is nothing new here, is quite a personal one, many who enjoy this genre don’t want anything new. A Metropolitan police officer, renowned for his success, arrives in a small South Wales village in 1904 to investigate the murder of a young girl. The writing is good, and the characters believable overall, but there is a Scooby-Doo flavour to the brief supernatural elements, something I think is very difficult to pull off successfully in a crime novel. It’s worth mentioning that not just is this a debut, but also the author is just 28 years old.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ali-pie

    I quite enjoyed reading this but it would have been a lot better with less supernatural stuff and I almost took a star off just for the final twist at the very end which was so cringe

  26. 5 out of 5

    4cats

    It's 1904 and Thomas Bexley is a forensic photographer, he is sent to a small Welsh village to photograph the crime scene of a recent murder of a young girl. He suspects the scene has been staged and as he investigates further he becomes ill and feverish causing hallucinations ..... he suspects

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    The narrator of the audio version ruined this a little for me, I didn't like his accents. The mystery of this book was good, but I was expecting more supernatural and less normal killer.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Linda Kelly

    Rounded it up to 4 stars but would have given it 3.5

  29. 4 out of 5

    MS

    Read for Mystery & Thriller Week 2020 3 shadowy starz for this Welsh mystery which mixes the specific tropes of the crime genre with horror (more specific, ghost stories). If not for the comparison with Laura Purcell's "The Silent Companions", I probably would have never found this book, but I don't regret that I did ^^ The horror part is the novel's main asset, while the overall plot is "acceptable". (view spoiler)[ However, I am getting tired of authors writing about serial killers in these hi Read for Mystery & Thriller Week 2020 3 shadowy starz for this Welsh mystery which mixes the specific tropes of the crime genre with horror (more specific, ghost stories). If not for the comparison with Laura Purcell's "The Silent Companions", I probably would have never found this book, but I don't regret that I did ^^ The horror part is the novel's main asset, while the overall plot is "acceptable". (view spoiler)[ However, I am getting tired of authors writing about serial killers in these hisfics. They're making it look as if serial killing was extremely common during the nineteenth century, which was not the case (as far as we know). Surely, serial killers have long been objects of fascination and contempt, but having someone kill "just for fun" in a novel cheapens the entire scaffolding of the killer's actions. It takes away something from the psychological complexity of the villains and it is an easy way out for a writer. So I see it (while admitting that there are prolly lots of readers that would disagree). The biggest problem of this book, however, is the portrayal of "Inspector" Thomas Bexley. He is the one who tells the story in retrospect and he is an unlikeable character. We are kept in the dark about his past, but we see him make rash decisions, give in to violent and irascible outbursts in regards to potential suspects. His merit resides solely in his obstinacy to do his job while everything seems to oppose him (and thank Gawd for the interference of Betsan's ghost, otherwise he could not have solved the murders). I think that, in the best of crime writing, the "offense" (or the starting point of the investigation) is never just a case to the investigators. They are emotionally invested, which raises the stakes, or at least they have something going on in their personal lives which humanizes them in connection to the "offense". None of this can be found here. Bexley wants to discover the killer, but he is not clever enough to be another Sherlock Holmes. The one thing that individualizes him is the use of photography, which, I will concede, is a nice touch for a hisfic. (hide spoiler)] This is very readable, but I would have wanted more. From what I understand, it is the first book in a series(?!), so I can only hope that the author will make Thomas Bexley a more rounded character, by giving him some subtlety, emotional complexity and, of course, a life outside of his job.

  30. 4 out of 5

    jhanami

    Let me start by saying that the book cover is absolutely beautiful. I thought the premise was intriguing and I loved the start of the journey and arrival in the village, the old fashioned writing style, the building-up of a bit of atmosphere, slowly introducing the villagers and the murder case - who doesn’t love an old fashioned Victorian whodunnit in a village full of weirdos and strange going-ons? I felt it lost its stride a bit in the middle part with a major plot point being oh so obvious to Let me start by saying that the book cover is absolutely beautiful. I thought the premise was intriguing and I loved the start of the journey and arrival in the village, the old fashioned writing style, the building-up of a bit of atmosphere, slowly introducing the villagers and the murder case - who doesn’t love an old fashioned Victorian whodunnit in a village full of weirdos and strange going-ons? I felt it lost its stride a bit in the middle part with a major plot point being oh so obvious to everyone apart from the main protagonist, who is after all meant to be an investigator extraordinaire, with sharp observational skills, and a huge amount of experience... Sherlock Holmes he is clearly not. However, the story gets eventually back on track, revealing the sinister village secrets one by one. It’s conclusion maybe a little predictable, and the last twist a little twee, but I found it atmospheric enough to pick up a second Bexley instalment should there be one. I also think with its descriptive style this could make a great audio book.

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