Monday, November 29, 2010

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

Impulse has brought Verity Grey to remote Eyemouth, Scotland from her home in England. Verity's friend and ex-lover Adrian Sutton-Clarke has tempted her with an archaeological mystery. What it is, exactly, he won't tell her until she gets to Eyemouth. By then, the impetuous museum worker is intrigued enough to stay.

At the estate known as Rosehill, Verity meets her boss, Peter Quinnell. People say Peter is quite mad, but the eccentric old man believes he has found the site of the lost Ninth Legion of Rome. With the help of a young boy with second sight, Peter intends to unearth the remains of the Roman camp. Verity's job would be cataloguing and drawing the artifacts that are found- but she isn't convinced of the site's authenticity.

While at Rosehill, Verity also meets David Fortune, an archaeologist working with Quinnell. What starts out as a working relationship builds into a romantic attraction as the two find themselves embroiled in a mystery that dates back to ancient Rome.
Ana Says:

I have had this book in the TBR pile for a while now. I added it because my blog colleagues were raving about how good Kearsley was; any author/book they recommend is bound to be a winner so how could I resist?
The main character is an archeologist, that fact alone is enough for me to be interested, but she is also a very likeable and sensible woman. Her name is Verity Grey and she is the character we get to know better because the story is written in the first person.

Verity is invited by a former lover to join an excavation in Scotland. He doesn’t tell her what they are digging up but she is curious enough to join them a day early. On the way she meets David Fortune, another archeologist involved in the excavation but it’s only after she meets the head of the team – Peter Quinnell - once a renowned archaeologist but now considered a bit mad due to his theories on the Legio XI Hispana, the famous lost 9th Legion of the Roman Empire.

Verity is at first very dubious about the evidence of such a thing as the fate of the 9th is almost the subject of legend; but she can’t help liking Peter and it is a well payed job so she decides to stay. However she soon starts to feel that not everything is at it seems and once she meets Robbie, a young boy known to have The Sight, she realizes that there is someone else walking the fields at night. Someone who might have a clue about what they are digging up but that also feels that there is danger lurking around.

I think Kearsley did a wonderful job at creating a very suspenseful atmosphere. We get to know the characters through Verity’s eyes; we see her doubts about some of them, her attraction to David and her curiosity about Robbie’s abilities and what he can help with. She creates a wonderful atmosphere with her description and her dialect and we never feel like it is too much. Instead it feels wonderfully evocative and the supernatural elements are perfect addictions to the suspense.

I do love contemporary books with a bit of history thrown in and this one is a perfect example. By coincidence I read a lot about the 9th Legion last year after finding 2 movies about it and while I wouldn’t say the solution here is the perfect one, there’s no doubt that Susanna Kearsley’s writing whets our appetite for more about them and for more books by her.

Grade: 4.5/5

Kailana Says:

This was my second foray into Susanna Kearsley. This was another great blend of history, suspense, and the contemporary world. She does things very seamlessly. The history was something that I was very interested in. I had heard about the 9th Legion, but this was the first time I had really seen an author tackle the mystery. While it might not have actually happened that way, I was impressed by her creativity. She pulls it off very well. I really enjoy books about archeology, so that was a big draw for me. Reading about Verity was really great. She was a strong, captivating character that interacted with other great characters during the course of the book.

I really enjoyed that this book was set in Scotland. I hadn't read a lot of books set there until recently and I am starting to really enjoy it for a setting. It makes me really want to go there, but at least until that is possible I can travel there through the pages in the books I am reading. There is a lot going on in this book, but that seems to be Kearsley's trademark. When you try to explain it to someone it sounds almost like too much, but she always manages to get everything to work out in the end. She never forgets about the subplots and she develops the secondary characters so that you feel like you know them almost as well as the main one. You always find yourself caught up in them and what they bring to each book.

I actually enjoyed the addition of Robbie in this book. He is a young boy who is gifted with the Sight. It is he that creates the mystery because he has abilities to see things that no one else working on the dig can. It might be rather silly to some people, but I think she pulls it off really well. She has this ability to make even the slightly strange seem natural. I really like that about her books.

While I didn't love this as much as The Winter Sea, I still really enjoyed this book and recommend it strongly! I look forward to rereading it at some point because it is easily a book you can visit over and over again.

Marg says:

Originally published in 1998, The Shadowy Horses has recently been re released in the UK by Allison & Busby. After first discovering Susanna Kearsley when I read and adored The Winter Sea, I promptly set out on a quest to read my way through her back list. I had read and thoroughly enjoyed Mariana and this was the next book I picked up.

When I started it, I was expecting something a little paranormal, most likely some time travel, a somewhat romantic storyline, and a darned good read. Whilst I did get most of these elements - this was more a ghost story than time travel - there was a also a suspense filled plot. Once again I was lost in the world that this author has created.

Verity Grey is an archaeologist who lives in London. She is looking for a change in her life, and so when she is invited to participate in a dig at a property on the Scottish coast, she is tempted by the offer. The only thing is that she isn't told very much about either the dig or her prospective boss when she heads up to the small fishing village of Eyemouth to take a look around at the invitation of her former boyfriend Adrian, who also works on the dig.

On the way to her destination she meets David Fortune, part time archaeologist and part time university lecturer, and a man who is very protective of Peter Quinlan, the man who would be Verity's boss. Quinlan's life long passion has been to find evidence to help solve the mystery of what happened to the lost Ninth Roman Legion. Within the archaeological world, Quinlan has a reputation of being somewhat eccentric, and to a degree is shunned, and that isn't likely to change given that his dig at the location is based purely on the experiences of a young boy, Robbie, who has 'the sight' and who believes that he can see the ghost of a legionnaire, known as the Sentinel.

Verity accepts the job knowing that she can't stay away from the dig, from Scotland and increasingly from the somewhat distant David Fortune, but when things start going wrong at the dig, it appears that someone is trying to sabotage it. Could it be Adrian, could it be other archaeologists, or could there be something else at play? And why does the Sentinel seem determined to protect Verity from some unknown danger?

Verity must work out if her boss is a little mad, or if maybe, just maybe, he has finally found what he has been working for all these years, find out what actually happened to the Sentinel, and work through her feelings for David, all the while knowing that someone is becoming increasingly desperate to stop the dig from going any further.

For all the archaeological focus of the novel, the author did a fantastic job of keeping the technical jargon accessible, but without dumbing it down too much.

Once again I opened up the pages of a Susanna Kearsley and found myself immersed in the world that she has created. I did ask her at one point if she could maybe create me a hero who works in Human Resources/Payroll, because all of her leading men so far have been very dreamy characters. Not sure how she is going with that request though!

Whenever I see Susanna Kearsley compared to another author, it tends to be Mary Stewart. I haven't read any Mary Stewart, but if she writes anything like Susanna Kearsley then I know that I am guaranteed some good reads.

Grade: 5/5


  1. It's great getting so many insights into the novel from different reviewers. While I enjoyed The Shadowy Horses, my favorites were Mariana and The Winter Sea. I have often thought her writing style is similar to Mary Stewart or Daphne du Maurier.
    A seamless blend of suspense, mystery, and romance. Thanks for the reviews!

  2. I really liked Mariana too Joanne, and yes, I have heard that comparison to Mary Stewart too. We have an interview coming up tomorrow where we asked her about that comparison!