Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beneath the Shadows, by Sara Foster

Minotaur Books, ISBN 9780312643365, June 2012

This is a really engaging contemporary Gothic, set in Yorkshire, and with characters I truly wanted to spend the time with.

Grace Lockwood's husband Adam inherits a cottage from his grandparents, in a tiny Yorkshire village, and persuades her to move there with him and their new daughter, Millie. Grace isn't enthusiastic at first, but she's settling in and warming to the setting and the close-knit community when, quite abruptly, Adam disappears, leaving Millie in her stroller on the cottage porch. When the ensuing search turns up no trace of Adam, not of accident, or of foul play, or of Adam himself, the police gently suggest that he may have simply chosen to disappear. Grace doesn't believe that, but the alternative isn't any more attractive. It's a devastating loss, and she leaves the village. She's not ready to return to her life in London, but instead spends most of the next year with her parents, in the south of France.

A year later, she returns, with the stated intention of sorting out Adam's grandparents' possessions and getting the cottage ready to be rented out, and the unstated intention of finding out what happened to Adam. Winter is coming on, it's just a short time before Christmas, and even with regular visits from her sister Annabel, it's an isolated place quite capable of being cut off by a bad storm. Nevertheless, to Annabel's surprise and concern, Grace once again finds herself warming to the village, the barren moors, the close-knit community.

Her search for what happened to Adam, though, is confusing and distressing. She discovers that what Adam had said was "a cabinet," is really the entrance to the cellar. In that cellar, she finds not just the elder Lockwoods' stored possessions, but mementos Adam brought from their London flat--he was lying, not mistaken, when he said it was just a cabinet. Meredith Blakeney, who last year was tremendously kind and helpful during the search for Adam, is now polite but cool--and yet issues invitations to lunch and to dinner. Her husband Ted died during the year; the four daughters whose existence Grace had not discovered during her brief time there are now all present, with the spouses of two of them, are now visiting for Christmas. The relationships in the Blakeney family are clearly complex--and become even more tangled when Grace discovers the connection of Ben, whom she's hired to do renovations on the cottage, to the Blakeneys.

And strange things keep happening. The grandfather clock starts and stops seemingly on its own. The village is filled with ghost stories. The behavior of the Blakeneys becomes ever stranger, and Grace discovers both more evidence that Adam lied to her, and more evidence that he didn't disappear by choice. The tension ratchets up, and Grace is brought nearly to her breaking point.

Is there anyone she can trust? Should she let the mystery of Adam's fate go, accept her loss, and move on?

This was a page-turner right to the end. Recommended.

Book trailer:

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

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