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Letters from the Dead

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1905. A year after ‘the affair’ in Dinas Powys, Thomas Bexley has become a drunkard and recluse, haunted by terrible visions of the dead. But when news of a spate of extraordinary kidnappings reaches him, Thomas is shocked to learn that his dear friend and former mentor, Professor Elijah Hawthorn, is the lead suspect.

Discovering a plea for help from Hawthorn claiming to have unearthed a gruesome conspiracy at the heart of the Metropolitan Police, Thomas embarks on a journey to prove Hawthorn’s innocence.

But wherever Thomas goes, he is followed by the dead, and as the mystery of Hawthorn’s disappearance deepens, so too does Thomas’s apparent insanity…

How can Thomas be certain of the truth when he can’t trust anybody around him, not even himself…?

384 pages, Hardcover

First published November 26, 2020

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About the author

Sam Hurcom

4 books39 followers
Sam Hurcom was born in Dinas Powys, South Wales in 1991. He studied Philosophy at Cardiff University, attaining both an undergraduate and master's degree. He has since had several short stories published, and has written and illustrated a number of children's books. Sam currently lives in the village he was raised in, close to the woodlands that have always inspired his writing.
A SHADOW ON THE LENS is Sam's debut novel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 68 reviews
Profile Image for John.
2,007 reviews197 followers
October 26, 2021
Really 3.5, but I'm rounding up as it's obvious the author put in a lot of effort here. Also, there's the outstanding audio narration.

I rarely recall details of the plots of books I've read. This one is no exception regarding A Shadow On The Lens, featuring the same main character. There are a few references to the action in the other book, but not many. I felt this one stood alone well. However, I recall the other book as being more consistently spooky. Here, there's a slow start, followed by some seriously creepy, Gothic action. Then, as is referred to in the blurbs and some reviews, the protagonist becomes the accused for the multiple murders; I skimmed through the chapters taking place while he was incarcerated, feeling there was more graphic violence than I care for, no matter how realistic it may have been. At the risk of a major spoiler, all I'll say is that he's able to work on clearing himself from outside the jail, which brings back the previous excitement.

As for the conclusion, Hurcom left open the possibility for a paranormal series featuring the main character, which would be just fine with me!
Profile Image for Kelly Van Damme.
671 reviews24 followers
November 29, 2020
4.5 rounded up

Letters from the Dead is the second novel featuring Thomas Bexley, but it can be read as a standalone, I should know, it’s what I did. Throughout Letters from the Dead there are references to and hints at what happened to Thomas in the first instalment, A Shadow on the Lens. These references and hints are enough to allow readers like myself who are new to Thomas Bexley to follow the narrative of Letters from the Dead perfectly and I must say that they’ve made me very curious indeed. I enjoyed my time with Thomas so much that I’ve ordered a copy of A Shadow on the Lens.

In Letters from the Dead, we find London terrorised by the Wraith of London. Men and women from all walks of life and all corners of the capital are being kidnapped by a criminal so insidious, so dangerous, so fear-inspiring that people are saying he might be the phantom of the Ripper, able to walk through walls and locked doors. The victims are missing, presumed dead, and the police is at a loss. Former special investigator / crime scene photographer Thomas Bexley is called in for questioning, since a friend and former colleague of his, an forensics expert named Hawthorn, is the prime suspect. Thomas doesn’t know what or who to believe and he’s obviously going through a bit of a rough patch: he can see ghosts and he’s not quite coping with that fact.

On his quest for the truth, Thomas’ lot is thrown in with Beatrice’s, who tells him she’s the sister of one of the missing persons and dead set on finding out who’s responsible, on getting justice. What ensues is part murder mystery, part ghost story, all fantastic historical crime fiction. Set a few decades after Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel murders, that is exactly the gloomy atmosphere and eerie vibe you can expect from Letters from the Dead, and there are some decidedly creepy scenes in there as well. Victims go missing without leaving a trace or with anyone in their vicinity – family, friends, neighbours – being none the wiser. It is all awfully mysterious so of course I couldn’t get enough of it.

I saw one of the reveals (or rather: part of it) coming ages before Thomas did. At first it made me feel quite clever – look at me, master sleuth – but after a while I just wanted to scream at him to wake up and smell the bloody coffee! Despite his issues and struggles, or perhaps thanks to his issues and struggles, I really liked Thomas Bexley as a protagonist. Most of the time we got on like a house on fire, and part of my obsession with Letters from the Dead stemmed from my needing him to be okay.

A satisfying murder mystery and compelling historical crime fiction with the added bonus (to this particular reader, at least) of an occult element in the form of ghosts, Letters from the Dead was the perfect fit for me, and I think a great many other readers as well. If you enjoy Gothic historical crime fiction set in Victorian/Edwardian times or books like The Quickening by Rhiannon Ward, Spirited by Julie Cohen or Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver, I highly recommend you check out Letters from the Dead!
Profile Image for Justine.
465 reviews297 followers
November 27, 2020
Originally posted to I Should Read That

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler free.

I have been absolutely loving Gothic historical fiction at the moment -- it's the perfect thing to read when the weather begins to turn and the nights get longer -- and Letters from the Dead perfect fit the bill. I was totally swept away by this harrowing Gothic crime novel and its unreliable narrator -- I struggled to put it down! 

Letters from the Dead is the second book in the Thomas Bexley series, however you can absolutely read this book without picking up the first novel, A Shadow on the Lens (although I plan to go back and read the first book!).  These novels are set in Edwardian London and Scotland, and Hurcom creates a dizzyingly claustrophobic narrative that is so incredibly compelling. I had a great time watching the mystery unfold, picking up on the clues dotted throughout the story, and trying to figure out what was happening. 

Bexley is a fascinating character because he's a totally unreliable narrator. Not only is he an alcoholic with huge gaps in his memory between the events of the first book and the beginning of the second, but he's also absolutely sure he's going mad. He's a twist on the classic broken detective character and being haunted by the dead -- filling his life with unease and terror and keeping him on edge at all times. As the story progresses, he becomes more and more unstable and unreliable, but is he truly losing his mind? I really enjoyed following his story arc throughout this book, but I do feel like I missed a little bit of his initial character development having not read the first novel, which is totally my fault -- I didn't know him well to start out with and couldn't compare him to the man he was before joining the police. Regardless, I found him absolutely fascinating and really enjoyed, if that's the right word, watching his story unfold.

A fantastically twisted and macabre crime novel with just the right amount of horror, Letters from the Dead is a book I'd highly recommend for fans of historical-set crime fiction or Laura Purcell's novels. In fact, I've already handed it off to my mother -- what better endorsement can you get?
Profile Image for Diana.
30 reviews90 followers
December 1, 2021
I have conflicting thoughts about this book. I appreciate the effort put into the plot - it was done really well, and kept me guessing to the very end. However, the supernatural elements, which are a big part of the book, were juvenile, verging on the comic and repetitive. I think the whole book would have been more convincing without all that silly ghost banter.
Actual rating: 2.5*
Profile Image for Kirsty ❤️.
920 reviews46 followers
August 13, 2021
This is the second Bexley novel, one in which London is terrorised by the Wraith; a mysterious figure that has kidnapped people and left only a cultish symbol as a clue. It works as a standalone novel but I think I would’ve liked to have read the first book as there’s quite a bit referencing back to that one especially in where the ghost sightings started. I did really enjoy it though regardless.

It’s very atmospheric. It would make a great old time hammer film. The descriptions of foggy London and atmospheric creepy houses on the abandoned island in Scotland are so indepth. It was so easy to transport myself to all of them. There are quite a few twists to keep you guessing and it never slows from the start. A creepy, compelling ghost-crime read. Loved it.
Profile Image for Jennifer Hill.
201 reviews2 followers
November 23, 2020
It’s 1905 and Thomas Bexley, a forensic photographer has begun seeing ghosts.

Bexley also has a drinking problem and has gaps in his memory but after his former mentor is accused of going on a spate of killings, he then has to put all of his problems aside to solve the case.

Problem is The Dead want to find out the truth and they won’t leave him alone until he has done so.

Is it his former mentor that’s killed all those people or a cult that’s behind the killings or is it someone else entirely?

After he finds a body of one of his friends, things start to come to light and he soon starts uncovering the truth.

I loved that I had no idea where it was going and Hurcom constantly surprised me. Every time I thought I knew where the novel was going, Hurcom changed it on us.

This is a fantastic read that’s brilliantly creepy and highly descriptive.

‘Letters from the Dead’ is full of lots of moments that is guaranteed to send chills down your spine and is the kind of novel that is bound to keep you up all night in more ways than one.

This is a perfect mix of Sherlock Holmes and The Others so if you love gothic crime novels or spooky reads then this is the one for you.
Profile Image for always november.
23 reviews6 followers
November 2, 2020
WOW! First of all thank you to NetGalley and Orion Publishing for providing me with the eARC of this fantastic book.
This was a wild ride in the best sense of the word. It kept me gripped from start to finish and I couldn't bare to put the book down. I finished the second half in one sitting!
The writing was absolutely stunning (I have a whole folder of quote screenshots) and Sam Hurcom did a great job of building up the tension, which I have to say was palpable and I found myself holding my breath multiple times. I especially loved how Hurcom wrote the more horror-esque aspects of the book like Bexley's visions and the scenes at the manor which were at some points absolutely terrifying.
Watching our lead character unravel and starting to question whether he is or is not a reliable narrator was fascinating. I loved how the author made me want to go back and analyse the previous chapters to uncover the truth.
And of course, the plot twists! There were quite a few and all took me by surprise. About 60% through the book I was wondering 'so, what now?'. It felt like everything was coming up to an end, we knew or thought we knew who the killer was. So, what could possibly happen within the next 100 pages or so? And the answer is, a LOT. The second half of the story was so masterfully executed that I couldn't bare to take my eyes of the book.
So, in conclusion... you need to read this book! Seriously, it's really damn good. :D
Profile Image for Alex Jones.
652 reviews13 followers
November 8, 2020
Just finished this dark and macabre tale, great follow up to the first in the series, Shadow on the Lens,

It’s 1905, London and Thomas Bexley Is a troubled and deeply disturbed forensic photographer for the police. After the events of the first book leave him mentally scarred, Thomas is soon under pressure again when the police ask for his help finding a devilish criminal who is carrying out a spate of kidnappings.

With murders, ghosts and frights galore, this is a tense and often scare filled story whilst a pretty cracking crime mystery aswell.

Great read and highly Recommended
Profile Image for KatiEllen.
170 reviews30 followers
November 1, 2022
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Ooh what a sequel!! This book took my expectations, smashed me over the head with it and ran.

This takes place after the events of A Shadow on the Lens and Thomas Bexley is a changed man. A recluse and a drunk Bexley is living on his last nerve, one ghost away from losing his mind.

Whilst shut away from the world, the Wraith of London is snatching people from their homes and the police have nothing. After they turn up at his door, convinced a former friend and colleague of his is responsible the story spirals and I couldn't guess where it was going.

I had so much fun reading this, it was so different to the first book and for that I'm grateful, going into it I wondered if it would be as good as book 1 without repeating a similar story. If there ever comes a book 3 I'm here for it!!

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Profile Image for Louise.
2,388 reviews43 followers
October 2, 2020

Turns out it's quite hard to read a book AND hide behind a cushion... But I gave it a very good try,from very early in the book,because those visits from the dead were too creepy.

Thomas Bexley, a year on from where we left him,is a broken man with a drink problem.
As the book continues,I began to think he was also mad,and a mass murderer.
The only reason I know he wasnt going to swing from the gallows was that he was narrating the book from 10 years in the future.
That didn't stop the tension,the horror and the surprise that came as I worked my way through the book.

This is the second (of many I hope) books to feature Bexley,and I feel it really upped the creepy/fear factor of the first,and left us with a man and a mission.

Look forward to seeing where he goes.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Annarella.
10.4k reviews99 followers
May 16, 2021
I loved Shadow on the Lens and I loved this novel. It's gripping, creepy and highly entertaining.
A gothic thriller that kept me on the edge and wondering if what I read was reality or another of the visions of Thomas.
The plot is tightly knitted and flows, the world building and character development are excellent.
It's a thriller but it's also a fascinating story and I thoroughly enjoyed it even if I discovered the culprit quite soon.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
Profile Image for Emi Gharbi .
86 reviews1 follower
March 17, 2022
A bit of a roller coaster with this one. I enjoyed it but I think it could have been a lot better. The plot is way too obvious from the start and the writting a tad too simple. No real surprise at the end of the book, it made me feel hungry for more.
I enjoyed the grimness and the gothique atmosphere, as well as the main caractere difficulties to adjust to his life and visions, drinking and thinking way too much for his own good. Also liked the depiction of London and London police force in the early 1900.
Profile Image for Butterflies And Books.
81 reviews5 followers
November 23, 2022
• At first it started out slow and I wasn't too interested but later on it got interesting and I got really invested in the story.
• I had a couple of theories of my own of what was going one at some parts but I was still very surprised with the plot twists.
• It was great.
Profile Image for Amanda.
2,015 reviews42 followers
November 23, 2020
I absolutely love discovering new authors and particularly those who write historical crime fiction. Sam Hurcom is certainly a new author for me but having enjoyed ‘Letters From The Dead’ as much as I did, I can guarantee that I will be reading more of his work in the future. I loved reading ‘Letters From The Dead’ but more about that in a bit.
I read the synopsis for ‘Letters From The Dead’ and it certainly screamed ‘read me’ at me. So doing as I was told (for once), I grabbed my copy of the book and settled down for a darn good read. Well I have to say that I was blown away by the quality of the story and by how quickly I got into the story. To say that reading ‘Letters From The Dead’ became addictive is an understatement. I picked the book up only intending to read the first couple of chapters to dip my toe in the water so to speak and I ended up becoming so wrapped up in the story that I read more like a dozen chapters in one go. I couldn’t bear to be parted from the book for fear of missing something and so the book travelled everywhere with me. The pages turned at a rapid rate but because I had become so involved in the story, I lost all track of time and just how quickly I was getting through the story. All too quickly I reached the end of ‘Letters From The Dead’ and I had to bid farewell to Thomas Bexley. I soon cheered up when I realised that I had the first book in the series to catch up on.
‘Letters From The Dead’ is superbly written. The author has one of those writing styles appropriate to the time in which the book is set. By that I mean he uses the language of the time and writes it in an Edwardian gothic style. For me, this helped the story seem that bit more authentic and I felt as though I had jumped inside a time machine and travelled back to the era in which the story is set. The author has written a crime novel, with a twist of the supernatural which you don’t often find in crime novels. It’s this sprinkling of the supernatural that helps the book stand out from the crowd. ‘Letters From The Dead’ drew me in and then took me on one hell of an unpredictable journey with many twists and turns along the way. For me, ‘Letters From The Dead’ hit the ground running and maintained a fairly speedy pace throughout. I was gripped by the story from start to finish and on the edge of my seat throughout.
In short, I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Letters From The Dead’ and I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to other readers. I will be reading much more from Sam Hurcom in the future. The score on the Ginger Book Geek board is a very well deserved 5* out of 5*.
Profile Image for Amelia Carr.
211 reviews
October 11, 2022
This was a very good creepy read. Mystery paranormal with a few twists and a creepy feel
15 reviews
December 31, 2020
I was pleasantly surprised by how great this was. This world-building is so amazing
Profile Image for Finn (theroyaltyreader).
255 reviews6 followers
November 25, 2020
Special thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a review e-copy in exchange for honest feedback.

At first, I was totally wondering why I seemed so lost in reading a few chapters. After I finished this book then I realized, this is the 2nd book already. How I wish I can read the first book and do the review too. However, the storyline is different from the first book so I was able to catch up with the plot. I was bored at the first few chapters then things change when there new character comes in.

When Beatrice showed up, it's getting interesting including the mystery/adventure exists in the story. I can't stop reading when I already able to pick up the storyline and curious about what is going on in this story. Beatrice quite annoying to me. A bit. Asking here, there and being a bit of pushy while Thomas is struggling. However, it fits the story or else it will be a dull one.

It is also appealing to me since there is some sort Sherlock vibes, not to the character but to the mystery surrounding in the story. I wish to see Thomas acted as the best investigator as Beatrice mentioned it. He should be portrayed so in this story but all I can found is he is struggling perhaps his strength is shown in the first book. The plot twist thrown in the book already kind of expected near to its revealing time. I mean when you read a few dialogue before the truth came out, you can predicted whos and whats but still good to me. It also can regards as horror genre since there were ghost apparitions here. It gave me goosebumps while reading. I love it !!! From here I realized I love Gothic Historical Fiction books. To me, if I can't stop reading, this book is a page turner and deserve 4.5 or 5 stars.
337 reviews38 followers
November 16, 2020
I hadn't noticed that this was the second book, so I was worried at first whether or not I would be needing to have read the first book in order to understand the book. Luckily, this wasn't the case, altough I am certain it would have been to my personal benefit had I read the first book already. Nontheless, I was able to read the book without having lost too much context, because the book was doing a great job at keeping me posted about the neccessary information.
At first, I thought I was going to like the book a lot - the first chapter started intriguing enough and I was captivated immediately. However, when I continued to read, I was close to just put it down and mark it as a DNF. I thought I knew exactly what was going to happen and was dissappointed, since the book itself had sounded promising enough. Luckily, I did not give in to that urge. The book took a wonderful twist in more than one way and I was (and still am) glad to have continued reading the book, because it was worth every second of it.
I love a story set in Great Britain, especially in the 18th to 20th century. I love a good crime story and I love supernatural elements in my books. Most of all, I love a book that takes a good twist and leaves the reader guessing and following the red herrings the author left. I admit, I did. I was convinced of the character's guilt and I enjoyed the cat-and-mouse- game they were playing - all of them with the Wraith; Thomas with Hawthorne; the Police with Hawthorne and the Police with Thomas.
The ending has left me hoping that there will be at least one more book, but until that book will be published, I am probably going to give the first book a go. I hope there will be even more information about Hawthorne, since he was my favorite character. (Considering the outcome of the story, I am nor really surprised.)
I am usually rather picky and hesitant about giving a book five stars, but this one deserves every one of them - for the setting, the word-building, the characters and most of all, the twists it had in store.

I received a free copy by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
December 1, 2022
Really enjoyed this, from start to finish. It was hard to put down and with so many twists and turns, I just had to know what happened next
December 10, 2020
First things first, that cover is just gorgeous - it's everything I look for! Thomas is a character who i didn't really like as a person, but I appreciated how much detail was put into him. My favourite character is 'Beatrice', she's strong and helpful and everything this book needed for a female sidekick.

Sam wrote the book in such a clever way, I found myself second guessing the whole story half way through. It toys with mental illness and the supernatural, which is hard to do in such a fascinating and dark way.

A mysterious, gripping tale which immerses you in the story brilliantly, just maybe a little something missing.
288 reviews10 followers
November 26, 2020
Wow, what a great book. Really want to read the first one in the series and others thereafter. Think Sam Hurcom is an author to watch. "Letters from the Dead" is a twist on a Victorian detective novel, as Thomas can see the dead. From a photography background, he discovers when he develops pictures, he develops supernatural goings-on too which give him an insight into the crimes.

This book takes you from the slums of London right up to the wilds of Scotland. You don't know who to trust, and this is played out with real conviction right until the end.
137 reviews3 followers
November 26, 2020

Was lost in the world that Sam Hurcom has imagined. Thomas Bexley is a photographer in 1905 and I empathised with him greatly during this evocative story. Beatrice she was a fabulous well drawn woman. I loved her little tricks. Oh gosh Letters From The Dead is not to be missed if you like your historical fiction; likewise really if not. It’s a great book! Thanks Orion for the opportunity to read and review.
Profile Image for Munch.
425 reviews5 followers
November 14, 2020
I was sent an arc of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.
After enjoying the first book so much I was really looking forward to reading this and I'm glad to say it didn't disappoint.
I enjoyed being inside Thomas's head, it helped with the confusion over what was real and what wasn't. The tension and mystery builds nicely throughout. The struggle that Thomas has with alcohol addiction after the events of the last book was well done, he didn't just suddenly get over it during the investigation. I found him to be a very sympathetic character.
The horror imagery is strong with this one, it's not for the weak stomached and if you have a phobia of rats then there are certain scenes that will probably make it worse.
The mystery had enough twists and turns to keep me interested. There were a couple of things that I was able to predict quite early on (though I was made to doubt it a few times) but there were also things that I just didn't see coming.
Overall if you enjoyed the first book (and if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it) then you'll love this one too. A great spooky read for the dark winter months. It also helps that they both have gorgeous covers.
Profile Image for Alan Taylor.
214 reviews8 followers
November 16, 2020
Sam Hurcom's debut, A SHADOW ON THE LENS, was one of the surprises of 2019, a genre mashup which was a great read. Hurcom's follow up, LETTERS FROM THE DEAD, continues the story of forensic photographer, Thomas Bexley. It is 1905, a year after the terrifying events of the previous book, and Bexley has not recovered. Mentally disturbed, drinking heavily, he loses whole days, weeks even, to blackouts; he does not work, avoids human contact, and believes he is haunted by the dead. Bexley is a mess but is pulled out of his fugue state, at least partially, when his estranged mentor, Elijah Hawthorn, is identified as the chief suspect in a series of kidnappings, and presumed murders, carried out by 'The London Wraith'. Bexley sets out to prove Hawthorn innocent.

As in his last novel, Sam Hurcom weaves a story which crosses genres. There are elements of Sherlock Holmes and Hammer Horror, The 39 Steps and, particularly early on, Scooby Doo (and I really mean that as a compliment) as Bexley evades his former colleagues in Scotland Yard and travels to Scotland, drawn by letter from Hawthorn, a letter sent several months previously. Accompanied by the sister of one of The Wraith's victims, Bexley follows a series of clues which lead to an even bigger mystery. Here the novel becomes a little DaVinci Code-like (albeit with better prose) as the plot is driven by coincidence and I admit my heart sank a little. But...suddenly it ALL changes and the changes cause Thomas Bexley, and the reader, to doubt everything that has gone before. It is a masterstroke.

Ultimately, Hurcom stops short of going where I really wanted him to but still delivers s thrilling, disturbing, and very satisfying second novel and I look forward to his third.
Profile Image for Dee-Cee  It's all about the books.
302 reviews18 followers
January 19, 2021
When I started reading this book I didn’t actually realise it was book 2 in the Thomas Bexley series but it honestly made no difference and can definitely be read as a stand alone which is fab. I will however be reading book 1 A Shadow on the Lens very soon because I just devoured and loved Letters from the Dead.

Thomas Bexley is a very unreliable narrator, he’s a drunk, he doesn’t know what he did yesterday, the day before or even the month before. Having stopped working he’s become a recluse and heavily depends on alcohol to help ward off the visions of the dead he sees but he’s a very interesting character and one I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know.

Throughout the story he questions himself, his sanity and his innocence and as the reader I questioned them too only finding things out as Thomas did.

Set in 1905 London and Scotland the author has done a marvellous job of creating a story that is compelling and eerie. I loved the abandoned Scottish castle, it totally gave me the heebie jeebies and it’s written so well it’s very easy to imagine, to picture the scenes clearly in your mind.

It’s a fantastic mystery that really pulls you in, giving you little clues throughout and I really enjoyed trying to fit them together. It’s dark, gothic, it’s gripping and tense. It’s a story that I got so excited about while reading that i completely lost track of time, it felt like it had a hold of me and wouldn’t let go until I finished the very last page.

Letters from the Dead is a story I highly recommended. It has everything and more that a historical crime fiction book should have and I cannot wait to read more from the very talented Sam Hurcom.
Profile Image for Dan Bassett.
333 reviews48 followers
February 21, 2021
After the troubling case in Dinas Powys, Tom Bexley has become a drunkard and recluse, forever haunted by the dead...
You once again join Thomas Bexley as he is trying to shake off the demons of his last case from the sleepy Welsh village that nearly cost him his life.
Upon being questioned regarding an old colleague, accused of crimes of the utmost disgusting nature, Tom embarks on a quest to find out the truth and track down his friend to get some answers.
What Tom discovers will push his very sanity to the brink and possibly straight into the abyss, when he is accompanied by someone who may have a link to what has been going on even though he cannot surely trust this person who seems to know far too much....
When the unlikely pair are taken to a desolate and crumbling old Manor House, Tom makes a discovery which sees his eyes open wide to just how corrupt both the real, and the spirit world really are.
However, as he digs deeper into a conspiracy that apparently is at the very heart of the Metropolitan Police, Thomas will stop at nothing to reveal the truth..
But will he succeed or will powers from both the living and the dead overcome him and silence Thomas forever?
The ghosts of his past come back to haunt Tom at every turn. One minute a voice is calling him, the next a hand is reaching out to him... but surely it is all just his overactive imagination,Right?
Gothic, atmospheric, fast-paced and genuinely disturbing, the author yet again will have you leaving the lights on, just in case a shadow leaps out to claim you...☠️
Profile Image for Stuart.
216 reviews51 followers
December 17, 2020
Sam Hurcom’s Letters From The Dead is equal parts frantic, unhinged crime mystery and atmospheric, claustrophobic horror fiction that left me chilled to my core. This novel was a hell of a ride. I’ve read many novels that escalate to that point which leads you to an unbearable, need-to-know-the-truth, can’t-stand-how-uneasy-I-feel-just-reading-a-book state of mind, but Letters From The Dead captured those feelings in their purest form. SH balances this chaos with a duo of compelling characters that I could really root for at every turn, even at the books deepest, most conflicting moments.

I love stories set around the time of the new age of forensic sciences. LFTD is set in 1905 when criminalistics were becoming serious and investigations began utilizing the newest forms of evidence gathering. It is fascinating to see how policing evolved from rudimentary tools to high tech instruments that changed the landscape of criminal investigations for many generations to come.

Thomas Bexley is a forensic photographer who worked closely with the Metropolitan Police. After his last case (detailed in the first novel which I am yet to read) Thomas became an alcoholic recluse as a result of being riddled with visions of dead spectres that haunt him relentlessly. Thomas is drawn out of that perpetual hell when his mentor (and father figure) Elijah Hawthorne is accused of being the Wraith Of London. The Wraith is seen as a phantom Jack The Ripper but much more fearsome, kidnapping it’s victims in the night and never leaving a hint of a body.

The Met believe Thomas knows more than he lets on, but in truth, Thomas knows nothing. Retracing his steps garners him a clue of Elijah’s whereabouts. Thomas decides to follow the lead, despite his inability to function due to alcoholism as well as his crumbling grip on his sanity at the hands of the horrors that plague him. His efforts are both compelled and frustrated by the arrival of Beatrice, a sibling of one of the Wraith’s victims, who insists that she accompany him to discover the truth behind her sister’s demise.

Thomas and Beatrice travel to Elijah’s last known location and begin to investigate what Elijah was up to in the last 8 months and who could possibly want to frame him. Thomas’ mind is quickly unravelling but he is determined to exonerate Elijah and find out who exactly this Wraith of London truly is. Letters From The Dead is an exceptionally well orchestrated mystery, populated with some of the best supernatural horror scenes I have experienced in some time.

When I mentioned atmospheric earlier, I meant it to the fullest extent. Sam Hurcom has done a fantastic job of conjuring the sense of sight, smell, sound and feel of a whole range of locations. Every setting from a deserted manor house off the coast of Scotland and an abandoned lighthouse to the gritty streets of London and beyond were brought to life in all their charm, splendour and nastiness. SH’s descriptive detail was on the mark consistently and it was both amazing and nauseating. I mean every place Thomas found himself was crafted in all its glory including prison cells, opium dens and city streets.

Thomas Bexley is definitely a compelling lead. His psyche is in pieces because of what he had already experienced and that was at the beginning of this novel. SH’s piles on the pressure and it does not stop, both alive and dead. The severity of his condition and the case at hand just kept intensifying until I could stand no more. Thomas is an unreliable narrator to say the least. Manic, paranoid though incredibly clever, it is hard to tell if he is truly seeing these horrendous visions or if they are perhaps manifestations of post traumatic stress or a full blown mental breakdown. I really thought a lot of his character and I hope that his story is far from over.

Beatrice was another interesting character who I felt got another superb arc in this story, one that felt her own and substantial as well. Beatrice does initially come across as a bit of a pain-in-the-neck but she becomes almost vital as the narrative gets deeper and darker. I also hope to see her again if there is a part three to this series. Letters From The Dead is easily readable as a standalone, though I really want to read the first novel now.

There is a lot in this story for many types of reader. Though it is not for those looking for an easy going, PG thriller. There are horrors awaiting inside this book that spooked even me, someone who has been reading horror fiction for 20 years. Hideous entities that stalk, plead and threaten Thomas at every turn. There are also lashings of misdirection, chaos, claustrophobic storytelling and outright brutality. But that said, it is also a meaningful narrative that utilizes its story, characters and setting to engage the reader in witty, bittersweet and memorable moments and it took me on a heck of a journey. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jen.
148 reviews12 followers
October 31, 2020
I happened to read Letters from the Dead over Halloween weekend and it turned out to be an excellent, spooky choice. As you may have gathered from the title, it does indeed involve elements of the supernatural but it is also, in essence, a thriller / historical murder mystery.

This is the second novel from Sam Hurcom featuring lead character Thomas Bexley. Hurcom’s debut novel, A Shadow on the Lens is heavily referenced, as it is the story of events in Bexley’s life that lead him to be in the situation and mental state he is in when we meet him here. But if, like me, you haven’t read it, it won’t affect your enjoyment or understanding of this story. So crack on with reading Letters from the Dead!

1905: Thomas Bexley is a special investigator with the Metropolitan police and he has had to take a leave of absence from work due to a rather disturbing murder case he worked on the year previously in a small Welsh village (the plot of the aforementioned book 1).

But, when a serial killer, known as the Wraith of London, is discovered to be working his way through the city, the police call on Bexley for his services, as he has a link to their prime suspect, Elijah Hawthorn.

‘Eleven known kidnappings so far, and we believe every victim to date is dead, though we can’t find any of the bodies.’

Bexley might be hesitant to get involved, and in not much of a mental state to do so either, but he finds a letter from Elijah that he has to follow up. This leads to a trip to an isolated manor in Scotland, a prison escape and a lot of gruesome encounters.

The other element woven into this high-octane murder mystery is the reason that Bexley has been struggling to function for the past year and developed an alcohol addiction… he is visited regularly by ghosts. And not the friendly kind. With the exception of Beatrice. Bexley come to rely on her and, yes, I think develops one or two feelings…

This makes Bexley a most unreliable of narrators, so you’re often left wondering if you can believe his version of events and questioning what’s happening. This is, of course, an excellent addition to a murder mystery. Nothing like a an unreliable narrator to keep things interesting…

In keeping with being told to us by a man at the turn of the 20th century, there is an archaic tone running through it. I like that, it really helped set the scene and bring Bexley’s character to life. It also made it feel different to a lot of other novels I’ve read recently.

I would say that Letters from the Dead felt a few pages longer than it needed to be, some sections were quite long and overly descriptive, with elements of the chase taking time to get to where you know they are going to end up BUT I can see that this was in keeping with its archaic tone and structure that mimics early 20th century novels. What’s important is that it had me hooked, I really enjoyed Thomas Bexley’s character and loved the blend of good-old murder mystery with supernatural elements.
Profile Image for Rosie.
301 reviews24 followers
October 19, 2020
Firstly, huge thank you to Orion and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Letters From the Dead will be published on 26 November 2020.

I was looking for more spooky reads for this month and came across Letters From the Dead on NetGalley, it sounded just like the gothic story I was looking for and I was right. The novel is both chilling and gripping which had me eager to turn the page to find out what happens next, but I was also scared of what I would find.

Set in 1905, Letters From the Dead is a sequel to A Shadow on the Lens which deals with the aftermath of traumatic events that our protagonist, Thomas Bexley, in Wales. Since that case he has been haunted by horrific visions of the dead which has him turning to drink and losing track of the days. Whilst he’s in his drunken stupors the ‘Wraith of London’ has been terrorising the city with a series of kidnappings. Shocked to hear that the main suspect is an old, dear, friend of his, he’s determined to find out the truth for himself.

The entire novel is told from Bexley’s perspective who was a very intriguing protagonist. It was very interesting seeing the way that Bexley works through things and deals with the situation. This might sound odd, but I really enjoyed the way Bexley’s fear was written. I liked seeing how much these visions impacted him, but how he was still determined to discover the truth to what was going on. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Beatrice at first, it did take me a while to like her, but, towards the end of the novel I came to really appreciate the character.

Hurcom’s writing is great and the development of the plot was really well done. What I often find when reading horror/gothic novels is that they don’t often elicit the response of fear for me. However, Hurcom’s descriptions of some of the more horrific scenes had me feeling unsettled and grimacing as I was conjuring the images in my mind. I also liked the mystery aspect to the novel; whenever you think you’re getting closer to the truth a new twist is thrown at you to completely destroy the path you thought was the right one.

Going into this novel I didn’t realise that it was a sequel, however, I was still able to follow the novel and thought it still works great as a standalone. Whilst it would have been good to know the full story behind what happened in Wales, which is covered in the first novel, I found not knowing just added to the mystery of the whole novel.

I really enjoyed this novel and its creepy atmosphere, perfect for the spooky season or for horror/gothic literature lovers in general. I definitely recommend picking this one up when it is published on the 26 November 2020, I know I’ll be picking up the first novel as I’m very invested in Bexley’s story!
107 reviews
September 10, 2021
Hurcom's first novel, Shadow on the Lens was gloriously unsettling and claustrophobic. He's created another incredibly unsettling novel which follows on from Shadow on the Lens. It's supremely spooky.

The premise of Letters from the Dead is that there is a serial killer prowling London which the police have been unable to catch. They turn to Thomas Bexley, a special investigator who solved a murder case in South Wales the previous year. Unfortunately, Bexley is deeply disturbed and traumatised by his experience in the previous case which led to him apparently being haunted by ghosts which has left his sanity in a profoundly fragile state and he has become an alcoholic to try and cope with his trauma. He is however forced into investigating the killings in London and has reason to believe the police may be part of a conspiracy.

I won't dwell too much on the actual plot because that's a doozy that you'll want to read for yourself. Hurcom has a style that seems like a modernised version of MR James or Susan Hill, both of whom have created some very unsettling ghost stories. It's intertwined with a mix of psychological horror and detective fiction and is an excellent mix. The whole book feels incredibly claustrophobic and is steeped in paranoia, while also not necessarily knowing that what you're reading is actually real.

The first book I think does a better job of treading the fine line of keeping it very ambiguous as to whether the supernatural elements were actually real or the deranged imaginings of Bexley (until right at the end at least). The second book eventually does throw its lot in with the supernatural. That choice is perhaps a little disappointing but wholly understandable, especially as this might be an ongoing series - it would probably lose something if the narrative kept the ambiguity going indefinitely.

Still, if you like horror and detective fiction, especially ghost stories in the victorian/early 20th mould, you're going to love this. I do however now have to go and find something much more cheerful to read to make up for it though.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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