When London-based Grace and her husband Adam inherit a small cottage on the Yorkshire Moors from Adam’s grandparents, Adam sees it as a chance to escape the busy city for a quieter, more peaceful life where they can raise their 10wk old daughter Millie. Paying exorbitant rent is no longer attractive and the cottage, which they would own outright, would allow Grace to stay at home and be a full time mother to Millie rather than having to go back to her job which she didn’t enjoy that much anyway. So they make the move down to the old cottage.
They are there just a week when Grace comes home to a note from Adam telling her he’ll be back soon and has to talk to her. Grace is starting to worry when she notices a shape near the door – when she opens it, she finds their daughter Millie, tucked up in her pram. Adam is no where to be found and Grace never sees him again.
Fast forward a year and Grace has returned to the cottage from staying with her parents, determined to fix it up and do something with it to earn an income for herself and Millie. She cannot sell it as it’s owned jointly by Adam and herself and as no trace of him has ever been found, he’s still determined a missing person and both signatures are needed. Grace thinks she may be able to let it as either a residence or summer rental, securing it as an inheritance for Millie.
Grace also has unfinished business in the village of Roseby. She is determined to find out what happened to her husband – she knows that he was definitely not the type of man to abandon his family. He was happy, they were happy and he was overjoyed to have become a father to Millie. He was excited about the prospect of country life, about having escaped London and building a new life for themselves. He was not depressed, he wasn’t looking to leave her and their baby.
That leaves one sinister option but Grace is sure the village is hiding things and the more people she meets and the more she witnesses, the firmer her beliefs. However her desire for the truth and some closure is causing her some problems as it becomes close to an obsession for her. She is bothered by strange, vivid dreams (when she can sleep at all), the old cottage at times seems to have a mind of its own and there are locals who are obviously hiding things.
Despite family and friends urging her to leave and move on without finding out for sure what happened to Adam, Grace knows she can’t. She’s driven to stay and discover the village secrets, although that decision may end up putting her and her daughter in danger.
I devoured this book in just a couple of hours yesterday afternoon. Straight away you have the mystery that piques your interest – what happened to Adam? I wanted to start reading the book just to find that out, what happened to him and would Grace ever really know. Then I was sucked in by the writing and the characters.
My heart went out to Grace – a new mother, still dealing with that and all it entails when her husband disappears. When we see her again a year later, she’s more together than I would’ve expected but she’s still having a lot of trouble dealing with what has happened. She’s on a quest for answers, for her mental-preservation and presumably so she can reassure her daughter at some stage in her life that her father did not abandon them. She is driven for both of them, as I think she desperately wants to be reassured herself that Adam did not abandon her as well.
This novel is atmospheric – the weather plays a huge role, the cold, biting wind, the snow, the darkness. At times it seems to deeper into depression Grace is, the worse the weather seems to be, and if she is a little bit uplifted in spirit, the weather lessens in severity. Winter on the Yorkshire Moors is a barren, unfriendly season, isolating Grace both mentally and physically. Yesterday in my post about meeting Sara Foster, I mentioned that she talked about Rebecca. Grace is reading Rebecca in various stages of the novel and Beneath the Shadows does draw on some other similarities. Although the Roseby cottage is not large like Manderley, it is filled with the memories of other people and Grace often feels uncomfortable and isolated there and definitely not at home. She faces scrutiny and questions from people and what she finds out in her quest to know what happened to Adam will lead her to doubt their relationship.
Beneath the Shadows draws together an intriguing mystery, an atmospheric and gloomy setting that steals over you as you read it and an interesting and varied cast of supporting characters to create a psychological thriller that will definitely leave you wanting more from this author! The relationships are well constructed, be it between Grace and her young daughter Millie, Grace and her city-dwelling, confident sister Anabel, the fractious local family who definitely know more than they are letting on, or between Grace and Ben, a tall dark and Heathcliff-handsome sort who was a local but has spent a good deal time abroad recently. He’s a tower of mostly-silent strength and support for Grace during the time she is back in Roseby and through some very clever and subtle writing can you see their friendship developing and going from strength to strength.
I think this novel has a little something for most readers – a really well written mystery with whispers of the supernatural, a dark and gothic setting with a modern-day twist, characters that you can warm to and that make you really think – who knows more than they’re letting on, who is not as friendly as they appear, etc. I’ve talked before how I never see twists coming in novels and I rarely, if ever, predict the end of mysteries and I definitely did not pick this one.
Luckily for me I still have one more Sara Foster novel to read before I have to start urging her to write more!
Book #38 of 2011