Book Review: Beneath The Shadows by Sara Foster

13100208Title: Beneath The Shadows
Author: Sara Foster
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Gothic Horror
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: June 5th 2012
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Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

In this thrilling gothic suspense debut by Sara Foster in the tradition of Rosamund Lupton and Sophie Hannah, a young mother searches Yorkshire’s windswept moors for the truth behind her husband’s mysterious disappearance.

THE ANSWERS ARE HIDING BENEATH THE SHADOWS

When Grace’s husband, Adam, inherits an isolated North Yorkshire cottage, they leave the bustle of London behind to try a new life. A week later, Adam vanishes without a trace, leaving their baby daughter, Millie, in her stroller on the doorstep. The following year, Grace returns to the tiny village on the untamed heath. Everyone—the police, her parents, even her best friend and younger sister—is convinced that Adam left her. But Grace, unable to let go of her memories of their love and life together, cannot accept this explanation. She is desperate for answers, but the slumbering, deeply superstitious hamlet is unwilling to give up its secrets. As Grace hunts through forgotten corners of the cottage searching for clues, and digs deeper into the lives of the locals, strange dreams begin to haunt her. Are the villagers hiding something, or is she becoming increasingly paranoid? Only as snowfall threatens to cut her and Millie off from the rest of the world does Grace make a terrible discovery. She has been looking in the wrong place for answers all along, and she and her daughter will be in terrible danger if she cannot get them away in time.

If you’re as much of a fan of gothic horror as I am, then the synopsis of Beneath The Shadows probably intrigues you more than you’d like to admit. It was the synopsis that first drew me in for this story, but it definitely didn’t dissapoint. It’s a bit less gothic than I would’ve liked, but it does its best to be a gothic horror with a modern twist, and it succeeds in that department. The only problem? To me, it read more like women’s fiction meets mystery. Or even a cozy mystery of sorts. There were creepy, ghostly elements, but they were either quickly dismissed or offered little to nothing to the story. This could’ve been handled differently, better even, by living up to its genre and giving the reader true gothic horror.

Grace and Adam and their little daughter Millie return back to the place where Adam grew up in North Yorkshire. They move into a cottage left to them by Adam’s parents. Soon after their arrival in town, Adam takes Millie for a walk. Hours later, Grace finds Millie’s baby carriage at her doorstep, but no sign of Adam. As the police arrive and start to investigate, there’s no trace of Adam. Some people start to believe he just up and left them, but Grace refuses to believe that. Something bad happened to her husband, because he would never leave Millie out in the cold, or leave both of them behind. But the question remains: what? And who’s responsible?

A year later, Grace returns back to the cottage. But contradictory to the homey, comfortable feel she had in it at first, now it makes shivers run down her spine. The village is tiny, claustrophobically so, and we’re introduced to only a handful of the town’s characters. Meredith is Grace’s nextdoor neighbour, although they live a while apart, and she lives in one of the largest houses in town. Although Meredith is friendly enough, there’s something sinister about the woman Grace can’t quite place. Almost accidently, Grace ends up hiring a handyman to help fix the cottage, Ben. He’s nice enough, but he too seems to be hiding a dark secret.

With everyone enveloped in their own secrets, and her husband still missing, Grace has trouble deciding who she can trust…if anyone.

Beneath The Shadows is wrapped up in suspense like a butterfly in a cocoon. Suspense drips from the pages, starting on page one, and continuing until after the end. The characters are superb. Grace is an intriguing protagonist. She isn’t particularly brave or intelligent, but she believes firmly in that her husband wouldn’t just walk out on her, regardless of what others say, and she fiercely wants to protect her daughter Millie. She’s stronger than she appears at first sight, and braver than I gave her credit for as well.

The side characters make interesting additions to this story. Grace’s sister Annabel is fun, Ben is nice, and some of the villagers are creepy or strange. I liked the narrative. Some otehr reviewers mentioned they weren’t fond of it, but I quite enjoyed it.

Another pet peeve of mine was the constant referals to the novel Rebecca. I’ve read Rebecca, and loved it, and trust me, Beneath The Shadows is nothing like Rebecca. It’s a good, enjoyable read as it is, but it comes nowhere near that classic.

All in all, Beneath The Shadows is a great book for around Halloween if you’re not in a mood to get too scared, but you do want some mystery, or during summer when you want to spend a lazy afternoon reading.

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