Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Shadowy Horses - 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.
I have had this book in the TBR pile for a while now. I added it because Ro enjoyed it a lot but ended up not reading it at the time. Last December Katharina challenged me to read Kearsley (while I challenged her to read Singh) and I am happy to report that we both found new authors to love.

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 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 thing as the fate of the 9th is the subject of legend almost but she can’t help liking Peter and it is a well payed job so she decides to stay. But she soon starts to feel that not everything is at it seems and once she meets Robbie, a young bow 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 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 isn’t 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 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

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