Title: The Shadowy Horses
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Opening lines: “…The bus had no business stopping where it did … ‘
Blurb: With its dark legends and passionate history, the windswept shores of Scotland are an archaeologist’s dream. Verity Grey is thrilled by the challenge of uncovering an ancient Roman campsite in a small Scottish village. But as soon as she arrives, she can sense danger in the air. Her eccentric boss, Peter Quinnell, has spent his whole life searching for the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion and is convinced he’s finally found it – not because of any scientific evidence, but because a local boy has ‘seen’ a Roman soldier walking in the fields, a ghostly sentinel who guards the bodies of his long-dead comrades. Surprisingly, Verity believes in Peter, and the boy, and even in the Sentinel, who seems determined to become her own protector…but from what?
My Thoughts: THE SHADOWY HORSES is my first Susanna Kearsley book, and it won’t be my last. The book is a delightful blend of ghost story, mystery, suspense and romance and while the pace was by no means fast it had me hooked from the first page. The mystery of the fate of the Roman 9th legion remains today and is still much debated in historical and archaeological circles; THE SHADOWY HORSES is based on this legend and then pulls in the spooky paranormal element with the sentinel – who is very taken with Latin speaking Verity. The sentinel talks to a young boy call Robbie, who has ‘the sight’, and plays with Robbie’s dog; there are some lovely descriptions of Verity watching the dog go up to an invisible person and receive pats. The sentinel is often watching Verity and even helps her much to her horror; it is not a pleasant experience having a ghost move a filing cabinet, remove a threatening person or even just walk by.
“…I stood there a long moment, thinking, so absorbed in thought that when the footsteps rustled through the grass behind me, I didn’t turn round. It wasn’t until I heard the half-sigh of an indrawn breath close by my shoulder that I realised someone else had come to join me. Shaking off my foolish fancies, I fixed a smile of welcome on my face and turned to say hello. My greeting fell on empty air. My heart lurched. Stopped. Began again. Over the sudden roaring rush of blood that filled my ears I heard a herring gull cry out its warning high above the twisted trees, and then the whispering footsteps passed me by and faded in the softly blowing grass…”
I did like all the characters for the most part, even that of the sentinel, although I never understood why he was doomed to stay on earth. I have to admit that the villain of the piece was fairly bland, unremarkable and even at the climax was not all that convincing; still the betrayal of the villain plays an important part in a story, so their role was needed, but just felt it should have been developed better. This is the only thing that stopped this story from being an ‘A’ read. Verity handles herself very well in her interactions with the sentinel, her respect of young Robbie, her budding romance with Davy and dealing with the shenanigans of her ex-boyfriend Adrian. I loved Davy’s mother and also her boss Peter. Speaking of the dig – the descriptions of how the dig is conducted, the methods etc., are spot on, I have attended a few sites in my time and it evoked good memories.
THE SHADOWY HORSES drew me in very quickly and meandered along at a steady pace until the climax, which was not hugely climatic but certainly not dull either. I think because of the overall sense of menace that built throughout the story there should have been more drama. It was over quite quickly. I think that Susanna Kearsley is a very good writer with just the right balance between description and dialogue, reality and the supernatural and the joy of discovering this new author is that she has written more books for me to follow up on.
Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends.
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