Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

Book Description:
Verity Grey is thrilled to be asked to join the dig in Scotland, but after her first day she's not so sure she is ready for the job. Her team leader's obsessional search leads her to both romance and adventure.
When I first decided to read this book I thought it was going to be a ghost story or time travel type novel set in Scotland, similar to a previous book I've read of hers, The Winter Sea.  I was a bit off with my expectations - but in a good way! I wound up really liking this modern suspense novel that has some ghostly and romantic elements to it.

The story takes place in Eyemouth, a seaside village in the Borders region of Scotland involving an archeological dig. Verity Grey, a young archeologist from London has been hired for the dig and begins to believe there is a ghost, known as "The Sentinel," that is watching her.  No one seems to see him except for this one clairvoyant young boy.  She's been hired by a charming - and eccentric - man, Peter Quinnell, who believes he's digging on the site of the lost Ninth Legion of the Roman Empire.  Many consider him mad, but the money is good and, even though Verity has her doubts, she agrees to work with him on the dig, even if she thinks it's a lost cause.

Is Verity's ghostly Sentinel a link to what is buried beneath?  Can he tell them if he was with the Ninth Legion?  My interest was sparked immediately with the storyline.  I found it engrossing and enjoyed it immensely.   As it develops, we learn that the ghost was a Roman soldier, but he cannot speak to Verity, except through the adorable young boy, Robbie, who has "the sight."  Unfortunately, the soldier only speaks Latin which makes it a bit harder to communicate with Robbie, who obviously had no knowledge of the language.  Plus, it tires the young boy immensely whenever he has one of his "spells."  It also pisses off his hard drinking father big time, which complicates the plot.  Robbie is the primary reason why Peter Quinnell is convinced the Ninth Legion's site can be found near Eyemouth and it's hard for Verity to ignore Robbie's talent, although her logical common sense cannot let her justify that the basis for an entire archeological dig rests on what a young boy says!   Another reason that's keeping Verity at the site?  The attractive, tall dark and handsome colleague, David, who manages to take her mind off the ghost.

There are plenty of well drawn side characters that round out the book, many of whom are endearing and realistic. There's a comforting authenticity to Kearsley's writing that comes through.  I loved the natural sounding dialogue and local dialects of the villagers in Eyemouth and I really enjoyed the interplay between the characters themselves and how they all deal with one another and the family secrets that unfold.  I became invested in these people and their lives and found the ending and wrap up to the novel very satisfying.  Naturally, I zeroed in on the burgeoning relationship that grows between Verity and David, nothing overly hot and heavy, but I appreciated the way it developed as they grow on one another.  There's a slight love triangle going on between Verity, David, and her old love interest who was the one responsible for recommending her for the job.  I like Kearsley's love triangles, recognizing the same type in The Winter SeaPlus I learned some things about the workings of an archeological dig site.

As far as the title goes, there's not much in the way of "shadowy horses" to be seen, but Verity hears them running at night, even though there is nary a horse in the vicinity. This adds to the suspense and ghostly implications of the storyline, though I found for the most part this book read more like a contemporary novel with a mystery than a real ghost story.  Though we're not exactly afraid of the the Sentinel, we are nervous about what he's trying to say to Verity, for he has a message and is trying to protect her from something. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and found it to be a comforting read.  I now wish I had read it before going to Scotland and had made a point of traveling to this part of the country.  Oh well, I will another time!



Anne said...

I love Susanna Kearsley, I always enjoy her books. Great review!

Joanne said...

Enjoyed reading your review, Julie! I've read updates on Susanna's website that her next book, a tie-in to The Winter Sea, will feature Robbie as an adult. It will be interesting to see how his gift of "the sight" will enhance Annie's story.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Anne, thanks, I really like Kearsley too - plus, I just won her book "Rose Garden" over at Dear Author!

Joanne, that's great to hear we'll be seeing Robbie as an adult (I loved him!) The whole tie with Annie sounds great! I'm looking forward to it!

Holly said...

I haven't tried any of her books yet although I will be getting to Winter Sea shortly. This one sounds good too-will be adding it to the TBR :)

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Holly, glad you'll be getting to her books soon. The Winter Sea is very different from The Shadowy Horses, but the contemporary parts of them are similar. I suspect her heroines are not unlike Kearsley herself! ;)

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