From the Publisher
"Picture the Dead is an entertaining read, highly recommend it to those that enjoy the young adult historical fiction with a splash of paranormal!" -
"Aan absorbing Gothic mystery that immerses you in its pages." - A Tapestry of Words
"Truly masterful, original, and jaw-dropping creation - a work of art." -
"Utterly delightful in both content and appearance." - A YA Reader
"This book is really something special and I recommend it to anyone who likes history, romance, and a good ghost story. " -
"Picture the Dead is an absorbing and richly atmospheric piece of young adult historical fiction. " - Leafing Through Life
Brown's striking portraits, drawings displayed throughout as though in a photo album, animate this artful Civil War-era novel…The story is engrossing and the period details an added pleasure.
The New York Times
In this smartly restrained ghost story, orphan Jennie has already lost her twin brother to the Civil War, but when her brooding cousin, Quinn, returns wounded to their Massachusetts home, she learns that Will--Quinn's brother and Jennie's fiancé--is also dead. Displaced and treated like a servant by her miserly aunt, Jennie succumbs to Quinn's romantic advances, in spite of a ghostly recurring sensation that she is being choked, and her sense that something's amiss with Will's death. Integrated letters, scrawled notes, and Brown's (How to Be) digital portraits (based on daguerreotypes) provide foreshadowing, while contributing to the unease that gnaws at Jennie's stark yet beautiful narration. Through her association with a spirit photographer, Mr. Geist, Jennie presumes that Will is jealous over her engagement to Quinn, but Griffin's (the Vampire Island series) house of mirrors unveils secrets more sinister. Despite the powerful conclusion, it's moments of quiet perception that should most resonate, as when Mr. Geist distinguishes between memory and haunting: "For if memory is the wave that buoys our grief, haunting is the undertow that drags us to its troubled source." Ages 12–up. (May)
"A tale of lost love, family betrayal and visits from the spirit world, also included is an engaging thread involving a spirit medium who employs photography in his fraudulent craft. Each of the short chapters is paired with Brown's darkly inked, realistic drawings that mimic the look of photographs, newspaper articles and letters written in the elaborate cursive style of the era."
The New York Times
Brown's striking portraits, drawings displayed throughout as though in a photo album, animate this artful Civil War-era novel. Jennie, 16 years old and an orphan, is left without prospects when Will, her fiancé, dies on the battlefield: his mother is her reluctant guardian, and makes it clear she is no longer welcome in the house. With the aid of a spirit photographer, Jennie attempts to get to the bottom of a mystery: How exactly did Will die, and why does she keep having such horrible dreams? The story is engrossing and the period details an added pleasure.
"Evocative black-and-white drawings... Griffin's vivid writing will draw readers into Jennie's first-person narrative of love, doubt, and mystery... The tale goes beyond [Jennie's] particular ghosts and shows how broadly the country was haunted: survivors by the loss of loved ones and soldiers by wretched memories. A Civil War ghost story with gothic overtones."
"Adele Griffin here combines the supernatural elements she explored in The Other Shepherds and the war themes of Sons of Liberty to chilling and riveting effect... Griffin smoothly weaves together the growing popularity of the Spiritualist movement... with breakthroughs in photography... Lisa Brown's drawings, which evoke the period and also act as faux facsimiles of Jennie's scrapbook, elevate the suspense and contribute to this gripping novel's Daphne Du Maurier-like aura."
VOYA - Rachel Wadham
When her twin, Toby, is killed in battle, Jennie Lovell finds comfort in the whisperings that come from his spirit and in the fact that her fiance, Will, may still return from the ravages of the Civil War. Then Will's younger brother, Quinn, returns seriously wounded, with news of Will's death, and Jennie's hope for a future with Will is lost. Haunted by her grief, Jennie begins to get spectral messages from Will that reveal there is more to the story of his death than Quinn is divulging. Lead by Will and supported by a spiritualist photographer, Jennie uncovers the truth behind Quinn's dangerous web of lies. With unremarkable characters and a simple plot, this book would have little to recommend except for the extraordinary way it combines social and physical history to make the perfect setting. Drawing on the popular Victorian pastime of keeping scrapbooks, each chapter is preceded by reproductions from Jennie's personal book that not only support the text but also reveal intriguing clues to the mystery. Drawing on the spiritualist movement that grew in popularity at this time adds the ambiance of the period and makes this a less overt ghost story. With social history woven into the physical realities of the Civil War, including its effect on the soldiers and the families they left behind, this novel creates a uniquely holistic view of the time period that is often lacking in other works of historical fiction. Reviewer: Rachel Wadham
School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—This highly unusual book is a combination of historical fiction, a ghost story, and a scrapbook. Jennie Lovell's twin brother, Toby, and her fiancé, Will, have been killed in the Civil War, the latter under mysterious circumstances. Will's brother returns home a battered, bitter young man with secrets that Jennie is determined to uncover. She is under the guardianship of her aunt and uncle, Will and Quinn's parents, and they threaten to turn her out. She is mesmerized by a photographer who claims to be able to capture images from the spirit world, and she uses this relationship to explore the signs she believes Will is sending her, warnings that she must decipher carefully. In the end, it isn't clear if the ghost of Jennie's fiancé is real or a figment of her imagination, which makes the story all the more eerie. What is suspect, and frightening, is Quinn's sudden interest in Jennie. The inclusion of family portraits, invitations, newspaper clippings, and letters from her scrapbook make the reading experience rich with texture. Serious readers of historical fiction will be pleased to discover a book with a unique perspective on such a well-represented period of American history as well as a good story with suspense and a determined heroine.—Nora G. Murphy, Los Angeles Academy Middle School
A brooding mystery set during the Civil War, this gripping ghost story of a young woman trapped by the confines of her gender and social standing is not altogether successful in its format. Blending straightforward first-person narration and illustrations fashioned to look like a scrapbook, much of the novel's impact is drawn from its protagonist Jennie's beautifully crafted plaintive voice. A tale of lost love, family betrayal and visits from the spirit world, also included is an engaging thread involving a spirit medium who employs photography in his fraudulent craft. Each of the short chapters is paired with Brown's darkly inked, realistic drawings that mimic the look of photographs, newspaper articles and letters written in the elaborate cursive style of the era. Alas, the repetition of some of the images is too unsubtle in foreshadowing the story's conclusion. Also, though carefully rendered, the illustrations often interrupt rather than enhance the flow of the work and may seem out of place for older teen readers, who would otherwise be a natural audience for this appealingly gothic work. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
Read an Excerpt
A ghost will find his way home.
It’s dark outside, an elsewhere hour between midnight and dawn. I lie awake, frozen, waiting for a sound not yet audible. My eyes are open before I hear the wheels of the carriage at the bottom of the drive.
And now the dog is barking, and there’s faint light through my window. The hired man has emerged from his room above the stable, lantern swinging from his hand. I hear Uncle Henry’s lumbering tread, Aunt Clara’s petulant “Henry? Who is it, Henry, at this hour?”
I know that the servants are awake, too, though I can’t hear them. They have been trained to move in silence.
What if the carriage brings news of Quinn and William? Or even my cousins themselves? That would be too much luck, perhaps, but I’m not sure that I’m strong enough for less. Another loss would be unendurable. And we are never given more than we can bear, are we?
When I sit up, I am pinpricked in fear.
The corridor is freezing cold, and the banister is spiky, garlanded in fresh pine. With both sons at war and her only nephew buried this year, Aunt Clara nonetheless insisted on bedecking Pritchett House for the Christmas holiday. Uncle Henry always defers to his wife’s fancies. She’s a spoiled child, blown up into a monster.
Downstairs the front doors are flung open. I join the household gathered on the porchall of us but the hired man, who stands below in the drive as the trap pulls up. The moment feels eternal. I twist at my ring, a diamond set between two red garnets, more costly than the sum of everything I own. When Will slid it onto my finger, he’d promised that I’d get accustomed to it. Not true, not yet.
“Doctor Perkins,” says Mavis, raising the lantern as the doctor jumps down from the buckboard. The housemaid’s chattering lips are as blue as her bare feet, and her braid swings so close I could reach out and yank it like a bell cord if she didn’t scare so easy.
The doctor signals for Uncle Henry to help him with another passenger.
Quinn. The name shatters through me.
Aunt Clara looks sharp in my direction. Had I spoken out loud? I must have. But I’m sure it’s Quinn. And as the figure emerges, I see that I’m right.
Quinn. Not Will.
He is grotesquely thin and hollowed out, his left eye wrapped in a belt of cloth that winds around his head. He is barely human.
“I’ll need hot water and clean bandaging.” Doctor Perkins is speaking as Mavis’s lantern pitches, throwing wild shadows. “A step at a time, Henry.”
On the sight of her favorite son, Aunt Clara whimpers. Her hands clasp together under a chin that wobbles like aspic. “Oh, my darling boy, safe at home at last.”
Quinn ignores her, an old and useful habit. He brushes past Aunt, the plank of one long arm hooked over Uncle Henry’s neck. But then he squares me in his eye, and in one look I know the worst.
Will is not coming back.
Blood rushes to my head; I might faint. I lean back against a pillar and take slow sips of air.
“A few more steps,” pants the doctor. “Where is the closest bed?”
Quinn’s bedroom is all the way up on the third floor, an inconvenient sickroom. He’d moved there last year, before he’d found a richer rebellion in joining the army and leaving home altogether.
“Give him Jennie’s room,” says Aunt Clara. “Go on. It’s only one flight, off the landing. And Jennie can sleep up in Quinn’s room. It will work perfectly.”
These suggestions part so quick from her lips that I know they’ve been squirreled in her head for a while. Even through her dread and worry, my aunt has been plotting against me.
A very bad sign.