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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 first forensius.


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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 first forensius.

30 review for A Shadow On The Lens

  1. 4 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

    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 h 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.

  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 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

    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.

  6. 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 – s 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 4 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 murde 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.

  9. 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 t 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!

  10. 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 pos 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.

  11. 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 h 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 5 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 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.

  14. 5 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 th 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.

  15. 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

  16. 4 out of 5

    Linda Kelly

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

  17. 4 out of 5

    Emma Shaw

    “He never left, he still remains. The demon of this village.” Murder mystery meets supernatural thriller and gothic fiction in this chilling tale. Thomas Bexley is writing his story a decade after the events take place, using his diary entries for reference and we see extracts at various points in the book. He begins with a note addressing the reader directly and I loved the promises of the chilling, dark and sinister things to come. This is the first time he’s really spoken about wha “He never left, he still remains. The demon of this village.” Murder mystery meets supernatural thriller and gothic fiction in this chilling tale. Thomas Bexley is writing his story a decade after the events take place, using his diary entries for reference and we see extracts at various points in the book. He begins with a note addressing the reader directly and I loved the promises of the chilling, dark and sinister things to come. This is the first time he’s really spoken about what happened during that strange case and he admits to feeling concerned about how he will be viewed once he reveals the truth of all that transpired. Forensic photography is still in its infancy and Bexley, known in the field for his eye for detail and his gift for putting the evidence together, is a specialised investigator who is sent to assist with serious crime cases across the country. When Betsan Tilny is brutally murdered in the isolated Welsh village of Dinas Powys, Bexley is called to help solve the crime. But on his arrival he’s dismayed to find that the locals, including those in charge, are reluctant to talk and seem to resent his presence. They’ve made up their mind who committed the crime and see Thomas as an unnecessary complication stirring up trouble and not understanding how they do things. Soon after his arrival Bexley has a sense of being watched, which only increases over time. He also comes down with a fever that inhibits his ability to work and forces him to take to his bed. And is it this fever that is making him imagine seeing the ghost of Betsan Tilny? He’s a man of science and doesn’t believe in such nonsense and decides that it is a manifestation of his fever. But he can’t shake the fear that what he’s seeing is all too real and the victim trying to tell him something. Impeding his investigation is the unwillingness of the villagers to assist in the investigation. They’re hiding something, maybe even harbouring a killer, and Bexley is determined to get to the bottom of it. Bexley is a serious, focused man who has no time to make friends or laze about. He’s there to do an important job in a thorough manner and will not let anything get in his way, not even being so sick he can barely stand. He was a great protagonist and I liked that unlike most others he saw no correlation between Betsan’s rumoured promiscuity and her death, reminding people repeatedly that nothing gives anyone the right to rape or kill another and nothing someone does mean they deserve such things happening to them. I was glad she had Thomas in her corner, fighting to find the truth and bring her killer to justice when others were glad of an easy way out and eager to brush the whole thing under the carpet. Councilman Robert Cummings is a loathsome character. He is the polar opposite of Thomas and seems completely uninterested in solving the crime. He makes no secret of the fact that he doesn’t want Thomas there, his repulsion of the victim, or that he’s made up his mind about who killed Betsan no matter what the evidence shows. He goes out of his way to prevent a real investigation and Thomas wonders if Cummings is the reason everyone is reluctant to talk to him. Like Thomas I was suspicious of what he really knew and what he didn’t want him to unearth. As truths were slowly revealed and the secrets of the village begin to be brought to light, the book became increasingly hard to put down. I was gripped and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. A brilliant debut that is a superb mix of some of my favourite genres and one I would recommend. The atmospheric prose made me feel fully immersed in the story and there was an eeriness throughout. This is one of those books you need to read with the lights on. Thank you to Orion Publishing Group and NetGalley for my ARC copies of this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cal

    A Shadow On The Lens by Sam Hurcom is a deliciously dark and creepy gothic style novel that gets under your skin from the very first page. There is an underlying sense of menace running throughout the book that sends shivers up and down your spine. It put me very much in mind of classic novels such as The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, as the author skilfully takes you on a terrifying journey of discovery that will both shock and horrify you. It’s the story of Thomas Bexley, one of A Shadow On The Lens by Sam Hurcom is a deliciously dark and creepy gothic style novel that gets under your skin from the very first page. There is an underlying sense of menace running throughout the book that sends shivers up and down your spine. It put me very much in mind of classic novels such as The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, as the author skilfully takes you on a terrifying journey of discovery that will both shock and horrify you. It’s the story of Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers, who is called to the sleepy and remote village of Dinas Powys to investigate the murder of sixteen year old Betsan Tilny, whose body has been found bound and horribly burnt. But it quickly becomes apparent that all is not as it seems and the murder scene has been staged. As the strange case unfolds, Thomas is struck down by a mysterious illness and, in his fevered state, becomes increasingly aware of a presence watching him. With the villagers reluctant to help, all Thomas has to go on are his own gut instinct and the photographic plates of both the crime scene and Betsan’s mutilated body that he develops in the cellar of his lodgings at the local Inn. There, to his shock and horror, he sees a face hovering around the body of the dead girl – the face of the victim herself, Betsan Tilny. The remote Welsh village of Dinas Powys is brought vividly to life, with the strange and secretive villagers all adding to the sense of fear and foreboding as Thomas tries to uncover the truth behind Betsan’s murder. From the moment he sets foot in the village and meets Councillor Robert Cummings, Thomas is filled with a sense of unease. As he becomes gripped by fever this feeling increases and he begins to see and hear things he knows cannot possibly be true. Is it his illness distorting the truth? Or is the ghost of Betsan Tilney really there watching him as he tries to solve her murder? A Shadow On The Lens is a fabulously compelling, dark and atmospheric tale that’s full of mystery and suspense, with a spooky supernatural element that will get your heart racing and send icy cold shivers down your spine. The use of forensic photography, still in its infancy at the time this book was set, is a subject I find fascinating and I loved the parts of the book that dealt with this important advance in technology. The creepiness of the dark cellar as Thomas developed the photographic plates is a part of the book that will stay with me. Heartstoppingly terrifying and the stuff nightmares are made of. Chilling! Sam Hurcom has written an impressive historical fiction debut that once started I could not put down. The perfect book to read on a cold, dark winters night, especially as we edge ever closer to Halloween. A dark and scary read that I would highly recommend.

  19. 5 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.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Ryles

    I enjoy reading both historical fiction and crime thrillers so my interest was already piqued when I read the blurb of A Shadow on the Lens. Then when I read that the book is set in the small Welsh village of Dinas Powys, which is where my maternal great great great grandfather was born in 1827, I just had to read it. My ancestor had moved to the North East by 1904 (which is when this story is set), maybe leaving brothers and sisters in Dinas Powys, so I was very excited to read a book set in th I enjoy reading both historical fiction and crime thrillers so my interest was already piqued when I read the blurb of A Shadow on the Lens. Then when I read that the book is set in the small Welsh village of Dinas Powys, which is where my maternal great great great grandfather was born in 1827, I just had to read it. My ancestor had moved to the North East by 1904 (which is when this story is set), maybe leaving brothers and sisters in Dinas Powys, so I was very excited to read a book set in the village he left behind; although no Norris's featured in the story. It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of the book but the murder of Betsan Tilny is so very intriguing that it keeps the pages turning nicely. A forensic photographer is summoned to the village to investigate the crime and this was the first oddity to intrigue me - why a photographer and not a police inspector? It soon becomes clear that the locals want Thomas Bexley to simply take his photos and leave their village without discovering who or what has committed the crime. Everyone in the village appears to be hiding something so the sooner Thomas is gone the better. We take it for granted these days that we take a photo and see it instantly but there's something so very mystical and magical about developing photographs and back in 1904 (only a few years after the Kodak Brownie was introduced) photos were developed on plates in a dark room. When Thomas develops his photographs he can't believe his eyes as the murder victim appears as a ghostly apparition. When Thomas is suddenly struck down with a fever and his negatives disappear, he wonders if he imagined it all but he remembers clues from the photographs that he couldn't possibly have known about beforehand. This puts him in more danger than he could ever have imagined. I loved the spooky supernatural element to the story which really makes A Shadow on the Lens something different. Encompassing so many genres means that it will appeal to crime, historical and fantasy readers, which is not something that many books can claim to do. A Shadow on the Lens is a spooky, goosebumpy, gothic-style historical crime thriller and a fantastic debut from Sam Hurcom. I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    June 17th, 1904, Dinas Powys (southwest of Cardiff, Wales, for those of you not familiar with the area). The Labour party has been formed. The Second Boer War has come to end. Women’s suffrage is dominating the headlines. World War I is far into the future, its horrors as yet unknown. And the body of Betsan Tilny has been found bound in chains, her eyes gouged out and body burned. It is up to Thomas Bexley to investigate, but the villagers of Dinas Powys are not exactly forthcoming wi June 17th, 1904, Dinas Powys (southwest of Cardiff, Wales, for those of you not familiar with the area). The Labour party has been formed. The Second Boer War has come to end. Women’s suffrage is dominating the headlines. World War I is far into the future, its horrors as yet unknown. And the body of Betsan Tilny has been found bound in chains, her eyes gouged out and body burned. It is up to Thomas Bexley to investigate, but the villagers of Dinas Powys are not exactly forthcoming with information. On a personal level, I absolutely loved reading A Shadow on the Lens as it is set in areas I know and love. Although it might not be exciting to many, there is something about having a book set on your own doorstep that makes it all the more enchanting. This book is many things. Gothic, horror, crime, mystery, but most of all, downright scary. And I don’t mean in a gory sort of way. I mean in a creeping, shivering, looking-over-your-shoulder kind of way. Hurcom builds the atmosphere slowly but steadily, spooking you to your core when you least expect it. I don’t consider myself easily spooked but there was one point when reading this book that I was so engrossed that I got a huge fright when a door was caught by the wind and slammed shut. It was great, I loved it! The plot and story gently twists and turns, garnering enough pace to keep you interested but without feeling frantic. I made many guesses at the identity of the murderer but each time Hurcom led me away down a different path only to find myself at a dead-end yet again. The character development is excellent, particularly that of our protagonist Bexley, whose stubborn determination is as endearing as it is noble. Forbidding, masterful, and ghostly: A Shadow on the Lens is a fantastic debut novel for everyone and anyone. You’ll love A Shadow on the Lens if you enjoyed: M. R. James – Oh, Whistle And I’ll Come to You, My Lad Charles Dickens – The Signalman Thanks to Orion and NetGalley, as well as Compulsive Readers, for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Janice

    The year is 1904 and Thomas Bexley works for Scotland Yard as a specialist investigator in forensics. He is dispatched to the small village of Dinas Powys in South Wales, where a young girl, Betsan Tilney, has apparently been murdered in a most bizarre way. He arrives and is almost immediately struck down by a mysterious ailment that brings him down with fevers, headaches and hallucinations. As the story progresses, Bexley becomes an increasingly unreliable narrator as we follow his i The year is 1904 and Thomas Bexley works for Scotland Yard as a specialist investigator in forensics. He is dispatched to the small village of Dinas Powys in South Wales, where a young girl, Betsan Tilney, has apparently been murdered in a most bizarre way. He arrives and is almost immediately struck down by a mysterious ailment that brings him down with fevers, headaches and hallucinations. As the story progresses, Bexley becomes an increasingly unreliable narrator as we follow his investigation, which is constantly hampered by what he considers to be ‘backward’ locals. He is assisted by the obstructive head of the local council and the young, bumbling local policeman, who isn’t much help either! They’re enmeshed in parochial superstition and determined to convince Bexley that his illness will hamper his investigation. But he is anxious to pursue the case and discover why Betsan was killed, and by whom. It’s hard to believe this is Hurcom’s first novel! It ticks all the boxes to attract the toughest and most hardened readers of supernatural fiction. It’s creepy, disturbing, eerie, dark, spine-chilling and macabre in every way that a gothic thriller should be. It will make you uneasy, your skin will crawl and you will not want to switch the lights off! But you also won’t want to put it down! Hurcom’s descriptions of village life and mentality are spot-on (yes, he currently lives in Dinas Powys – but we’re talking about life back in the early 1900’s). That collective animosity towards outsiders, together with a fear of any suggestion or hint of the unknown is highly evident. The reader can literally feel Bexley’s isolation at the way he’s treated by the locals, and this adds to the overall sense of unease throughout the book. This is an excellent 4-star debut. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Smith

    I was utterly fascinated by the blurb for A Shadow on the Lens. Thomas Bexley is one of the first forensic photographers and in 1904 is called to a small Welsh village to investigate the grisly death of a young woman, Betsan Tilny. The village of Dinas Powys is a strange place, full of hidden people, curtain twitchers and odd folk. Thomas cannot hope to get anything coherent out of them really. This is a very atmospheric novel with a nod to the supernatural. The village provides a ver I was utterly fascinated by the blurb for A Shadow on the Lens. Thomas Bexley is one of the first forensic photographers and in 1904 is called to a small Welsh village to investigate the grisly death of a young woman, Betsan Tilny. The village of Dinas Powys is a strange place, full of hidden people, curtain twitchers and odd folk. Thomas cannot hope to get anything coherent out of them really. This is a very atmospheric novel with a nod to the supernatural. The village provides a very claustrophobic setting for Thomas' investigations. Despite everyone calling him Inspector, he is not a police officer, but he is engaged by the police to investigate on their behalf. This did strike me as rather unusual but certainly lends a different slant to the usual murder mystery. Just like Thomas, I had no clue who the murderer was going to turn out to be and the author is certainly skilled in leading the reader down one path only for it to turn out to be a dead end. I can't say I took to any of the characters but I don't think I was supposed to really. They're an odd bunch to say the least. A Shadow on the Lens is an interesting read, quite an unexpected one from my point of view in that I didn't expect the supernatural aspect or indeed the gothic horror. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to visit Dinas Powys in 1904! This is a great read for the historical fiction fan, especially those who love a creepy and enclosed setting. Oh, and I must just mention that there's a map of the village. I know how much some readers love a map!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    When the narrator starts the story with a little note, be prepared for a very real story, there’s always a good reason for the note! 😉 Thomas Bexley is a photography forensic who has done so good his job that every time there’s a mystery the police calls him to investigate. But this will not be one of the jobs he is used to, since the beginning he senses that there’s something strange on the case. The body has been moved, the agents investigating the case don’t seem to have any real intenti When the narrator starts the story with a little note, be prepared for a very real story, there’s always a good reason for the note! 😉 Thomas Bexley is a photography forensic who has done so good his job that every time there’s a mystery the police calls him to investigate. But this will not be one of the jobs he is used to, since the beginning he senses that there’s something strange on the case. The body has been moved, the agents investigating the case don’t seem to have any real intentions to discover the truth, and then there’s something more… With a murder to solve, Thomas will start having hallucinations and fever; all related to a mysterious monster of the woods. It would seems silly, but if you are surrounded by people that believe in it and you start sensing something strange too, what would you do? The story is based on 1904, where folklore and legends were more credible than science; and this had made the story a really hunting book! Because the reader doesn’t know what to trust, the rational part that says that they are simply hallucination or the heart that says there’s a monster? I was totally scared with this book, is scary hunting and so well written that I wanted to hide behind the duvets from time to time! Because A Shadow On The Lens is not a light read, is the book that will haunt your dreams. Ready?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karen Huxtable

    Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for my invitation to the tour and to Orion for my copy of the book in return for a a fair and honest review. It is not very often that I can say I am surprised by a book but this one totally did. I was expecting a historical crime story which it is, but with so much more, almost as soon as Thomas arrives in the small village strange things start to happen. Thomas becomes ill and he begins to see some really disturbing things. He puts Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for my invitation to the tour and to Orion for my copy of the book in return for a a fair and honest review. It is not very often that I can say I am surprised by a book but this one totally did. I was expecting a historical crime story which it is, but with so much more, almost as soon as Thomas arrives in the small village strange things start to happen. Thomas becomes ill and he begins to see some really disturbing things. He puts this down to his fever but it is or is there more to it ? This book is seriously creepy in places and I had to put it down once or twice, if you like creepy thrillers you will love this. It is also very descriptive in places about his findings as a forensic science so possibly not for the fainthearted ! I was really gripped by the book and I wanted to keep reading to find out what really happened to Betsan and the author keeps the reader guessing which added to the suspense. A creepy atmospheric gothic thriller with a some gruesome details that kept me engrossed throughout, it is a really great debut novel.

  26. 4 out of 5

    BeverleysReads

    This is Sam Hurcom’s debut novel and it is Victorian gothic crime at its chilling best. Set in South Wales, Thomas Bexley, is a forensic photographer and he has been sent by the police in London to investigate the mysterious and violent death of a young woman. From the outset he is treated with suspicion by the villagers and they seem to be willing to go to any lengths to hinder his investigation. All this adds to the tense atmosphere around the village, but why are they so reluctant to hel This is Sam Hurcom’s debut novel and it is Victorian gothic crime at its chilling best. Set in South Wales, Thomas Bexley, is a forensic photographer and he has been sent by the police in London to investigate the mysterious and violent death of a young woman. From the outset he is treated with suspicion by the villagers and they seem to be willing to go to any lengths to hinder his investigation. All this adds to the tense atmosphere around the village, but why are they so reluctant to help him? Clinging to their old superstitions, Bexley starts to struggle to differentiate between reality and the supernatural. There are a number of red herrings thrown in to the mix in an attempt to throw the reader off the scent and it did keep me guessing right until the end. There are plenty of sinister twists and turns throughout the story to keep it interesting. As first novels go, this is an excellent debut and I look forward to more from Hurcom in the future. Thank you to NetGalley and Orion Publishing for sending me the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    When a forensic photographer is called to investigate the brutal death of a young woman in a small town in turn-of-the-20th-century Wales, he gets far more than he bargained for. No one wants Thomas Bexley there, which is not very surprising. But far more unexpectedly, he falls violently ill as soon as he arrives. He struggles through his sickness to look into what happened to Betsan Tilney and develop his photographs of her body and the crime scene. Do the photos reveal something more sinister When a forensic photographer is called to investigate the brutal death of a young woman in a small town in turn-of-the-20th-century Wales, he gets far more than he bargained for. No one wants Thomas Bexley there, which is not very surprising. But far more unexpectedly, he falls violently ill as soon as he arrives. He struggles through his sickness to look into what happened to Betsan Tilney and develop his photographs of her body and the crime scene. Do the photos reveal something more sinister than a "simple" murder, or is Thomas just losing his mind? "A Shadow on the Lens" blends my favorite genres, historical fiction and suspense thriller, quite well. I was fascinated by the idea of a book set in the early days of forensics and forensic photography. This book really delivered on that front. I enjoyed the layers of suspense involved. There is more than just murder in this book; there is corruption. And there is a tinge of paranormal activity, which I don't normally go for. But it was interesting to try and figure out whether Thomas was being haunted by Betsan or was just hallucinating in his delirious state. I won't tell you which, but I will say the story arc and ending were a bit of a surprise. I received an advance digital copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sid

    I really enjoyed this book. This debut novel, set in 1904 in Wales, is a very gothic novel and to a certain extent what can be call a supernatural thriller. I'm generally not very fond of that kind of genre but this book had me quite intrigued and interested. But overall what I really enjoyed about this book was it's twists and turns, it's bluffs and double bluffs with red-herrings all throughout the book. I would recommend this book to anyone who has a fondness for creepy, twisty whodunnits. An I really enjoyed this book. This debut novel, set in 1904 in Wales, is a very gothic novel and to a certain extent what can be call a supernatural thriller. I'm generally not very fond of that kind of genre but this book had me quite intrigued and interested. But overall what I really enjoyed about this book was it's twists and turns, it's bluffs and double bluffs with red-herrings all throughout the book. I would recommend this book to anyone who has a fondness for creepy, twisty whodunnits. And finally thank you to NetGalley and Orion Publishing Group for giving me this ARC in exchange of my honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    I really enjoyed the build up and the mystery around who killed Betsan and was totally not expecting who it turned out to be. There are definitely some red herrings throughout and when you thought you knew who the murderer is Hurcom surprises you with a twist. I liked the character Thomas Bexley as he was determined to find out what happened despite the frustrations and problems that come to light. The whole story was well written and was both chilling and creepy.  If you are expecting a regular I really enjoyed the build up and the mystery around who killed Betsan and was totally not expecting who it turned out to be. There are definitely some red herrings throughout and when you thought you knew who the murderer is Hurcom surprises you with a twist. I liked the character Thomas Bexley as he was determined to find out what happened despite the frustrations and problems that come to light. The whole story was well written and was both chilling and creepy.  If you are expecting a regular murderer mystery then you are wrong. Sam Hurcom is definitely a writer to watch and I'm excited to see what else he has up his sleeve.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I loved this. The spooky, gothic, atmospheric feel of the writing made it seem as though I was in the village as an onlooker watching the events unfold. It was very reminiscent of the UK television show, Midsomer Murders…small villages disrupted by a heinous crime but no one wants to help because they like to keep themselves to themselves and fix their own problems. There are twists and turns, literally at every corner and the characters are brilliantly written. For a debut novel this I loved this. The spooky, gothic, atmospheric feel of the writing made it seem as though I was in the village as an onlooker watching the events unfold. It was very reminiscent of the UK television show, Midsomer Murders…small villages disrupted by a heinous crime but no one wants to help because they like to keep themselves to themselves and fix their own problems. There are twists and turns, literally at every corner and the characters are brilliantly written. For a debut novel this is superb. I’m looking forward to Sam Hurcom’s future writing. Rating: 3.5/5

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