Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster

Beneath the Shadows is a modern gothic mystery. Set on the moors of Yorkshire, it wants to follow in the footsteps of Rebecca and the Woman in White, and it succeeds in many ways.

Grace, married and the mother of a very young child, is waiting for her husband in the isolated cottage formerly owned by her husband’s dead grandparents. The couple have moved to Yorkshire to take a break from the rat race in London. Her sister calls, and Grace tells her sister that her husband and infant should have returned to the cottage from a walk in the dusky garden. As she talks and glances out the window, she sees a dark shape on the doorstep. She opens the door to find her daughter, fast asleep in her pram. But there is no sign of her husband.

Chapter 2 resumes the story 12 months later, as Grace returns to the cottage to deal with her unresolved feelings about her missing husband – did he leave voluntarily? – as well as the cottage itself. She meets a large cast of village residents. Her sister and the male best friend who has always been in love with her make appearances in person and otherwise. She hears ghost stories, and strange things happen in the cottage. A mysterious and handsome architect offers to help her with some alterations in the cottage. She is spooked by appearances of black dogs. And when she wants to get away from it all, she picks up her copy of Rebecca.

The reliance on Rebecca as a plot device is tired and overdone, but the narrative is well written, and the author drops little interesting hints to stir up our curiosity. There is a long stretch where I did wonder if anything else was ever going to happen, but about halfway through the book the suspense picks up and the plot moves ahead more quickly.

Beneath the Shadows kept me entertained, and the ending surprised me (although I’m not generally very good at predicting how mysteries will end). It’s not a great book, but it is a good book. If you like modern mysteries, especially those set in England, you may enjoy Beneath the Shadows.

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