Beneath the Shadows
Sara Foster
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Buy *Beneath the Shadows* by Sara Foster online

Beneath the Shadows
Sara Foster
Minotaur Books
320 pages
June 2012
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on Beneath the Shadows.

Whether you are a committed fan of literary thrillers or someone in the initial stages of an appreciation for the art of British storybook suspense, the lessons learned from Foster’s Beneath the Shadows will certainly lead to a greater understanding of the complexities of the human condition. A huge infusion of atmosphere transforms Foster’s story into a compelling tale of former Londoner Grace, who must cope with the unexplained disappearance of her husband, Adam.

The story both disturbs and compels, the author bathing her audience in a such strong dose of automatic compassion, the mystery surrounding Adam’s loss becoming central to the tale as well as to the state of Grace’s sad heart when she returns after twelve months to Adam’s grandparents home, Hawthorn Cottage on the bleak, windswept North Yorkshire Moors. Grace is still reeling from the horror and confusion of the terrible day that Adam first went missing and Millie, their baby daughter, was left alone on the doorstep, her father nowhere to be seen.

In the midst of an unsettling silence, memories are couched in the stillness of time. Grace finds that her reasons for returning to Hawthorn are just as muddied as the winding roads of the sodden November countryside. With the shock of Adam’s disappearance finally fading, Grace finds herself yearning for answers as she decides to retrace her husband’s steps in the place where it all went horribly wrong.

The bare brown moor-top and the rooms of dark, abandoned Hawthorn shepherd Grace’s unfolding memories. She tries to push away the images of some tormented ghost in the “black maw of the night” but is plagued by violent nightmares of eyes that burn with hellfire, a frenzied flash of fangs, and the relentless ticking and chiming of the grandfather clock in the hall. Grace spends many sleepless nights haunted by the black descent of darkness, of blurry visions running into one another where strange shadows on hilltops and indistinct figures walk towards and then away from her.

In a tale awash in emotional anguish, Hawthorn Cottage creaks and groans unaccountably. Foster juxtaposes the snowbound moors with the dim, dusty corners of an old cellar, which in turn only adds to Grace’s grieving narrative and her sense of responsibility for dismantling the last trace of Adam’s parents’ lives. She just wishes she had more an idea of what Adam might have wanted before he vanished into the night, and she is tormented by the notion that he might have been hiding the truth from her all along, his omissions and oversights a deliberate ploy to deceive her.

From Grace’s vantage point, too many questions surround Adam’s last hours. But Grace is no longer so scattered and trusting. While her more wayward sister, Annabel, arrives from London with the best of intentions, there are also the calming ministrations of fresh-faced Claire Blakeney, who offered to mind Hawthorne. Claire is well-meaning and concerned for Grace and Millie’s welfare, but Grace’s suspicions are aroused by Claire’s mother, Meredith, whose severe manner and indifferent stare foment Grace’s nervousness when she decides to ask the woman about Adam's family history. Only Meredith’s estranged son, handsome James, seems able fill the void with an offer to renovate the cottage, instilling in Grace something close to peace.

In her impressive debut, Foster crafts a powerful character, pitting Grace against suspicious neighbors in an emotional cliffhanger in a relentlessly snowy, shadowy landscape. Grace has real inner strength but also vulnerability, her anguished, poignant narrative echoing throughout as she searches for Adam, her memories of his last note shifting in a shiver of disquiet: “I have to talk to you when I get back, don’t go anywhere.”

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2012

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