Beneath the Shadows

Beneath the Shadows
Sara Foster
Published by Minotaur Books / St. Martin’s Press
Available June 5, 2012
320 pages
Available on Amazon.com.
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.
4 / 5 cupcakes

I loved this book.

Mysteries are so much fun to read, IF they are done correctly. If you know whodunit before the hero, or if you are left with no surprises, then the mystery is dull and pointless. But if you are kept guessing, and if the resolution makes sense, then the mystery is beautifully crafted. And that’s what Sara Foster has done here.

Grace, her husband, Adam, and their baby daughter Millie return to Adam’s grandparents’ cottage in North Yorkshire. Adam wants them to escape from the hurly burly of London, and since the cottage is paid for, they can downsize and reconnect with simplicity. But shortly after they move, Adam takes Millie for a walk and never returns, although Millie is left in her stroller on the front porch.

A year later, Grace and Millie return to the cottage, after living in France with her parents. Grace wants answers – what happened to Adam? – and she needs some sort of closure. She begins having strange nightmares, and as the locals fill her with tales of ghosts, she becomes increasingly unsettled. Why does the grandfather clock – the “heart” of the cottage, as Adam said his grandfather called it – periodically stop ticking? What are those weird noises she hears? Why do some people stare at her?

And, most importantly, how can she make peace with Adam’s absence? She goes through old papers and photographs, desperate to solve the mystery of Adam.

She had to summon all her will power to swallow the emotion that began to rise in her throat. She searched their faces for some clue that their love story was destined to end abruptly, that they weren’t as happy as she had imagined – but all she could see was joyful smiles and laughter. That night, as they had gone to sleep in a four-poster bed, Adam had whispered his love in her ear, telling her he’d had the greatest day of his life. And when he’d first held Millie in his arms he’d promised he would do everything possible to protect his family. He’d said it with such gravitas … Too much gravitas? How would she ever know? Could she really live the rest of her life with all this doubt? But what choice had he left her?

The answers will not come easily to Grace, either because she asks the wrong questions or because those who might help her refuse to do so. As with much of life, Grace comes to understand that figuring out what happened to Adam is just one mystery to solve. There are others, and the thing about secrets is that those who try to keep them do not want you to find them out.

Sara Foster does a fine job of crafting this story. She keeps you guessing from page to page, and the answers do not come easily or conveniently. There is nothing cheap in the resolution to this book, and for that, I doff my wig in gratitude. I admit to a few remaining questions, but not for major plot threads.

This may not be a great beach read, in that you don’t want to put it down when you need to roll over and burn your back side, but it’s great for a rainy, dreary summer day. In fact, that may be the perfect ambience for this gripping mystery.

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