Blog Tour and Review: A Shadow on the Lens – Sam Hurcom

Welcome back!

Three minutes. That’s how long it took me to respond to the request to read and review Sam Hurcom’s debut novel A Shadow on the Lens. I’m so pleased to be part of the blog tour for this phenomenal novel.

Title: A Shadow on the Lens
Author: Sam Hurcom
Publication date: 5th September 2019
Publisher: Orion


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.

Taken from A Shadow on the Lens


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:

Thanks to Orion and NetGalley, as well as Compulsive Readers, for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Will you be reading A Shadow on the Lens? Let me know in the comments below.

Wishing you a bookish week,

Pen and ink

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