English archeologist Verity Grey is invited to an archaeological dig in the coastal town of Eyemouth, Scotland, by a former flame and colleague of hers. The purpose of the dig is to find proof of the stay of the Roman Ninth Legion Hispana in those parts before it vanished without trace never to be seen or be heard of again. There is little known knowledge to back up that hypothesis, except the word of eight year-old Robbie McMorran who has seen the ghost of a Roman Sentinel patrolling the area.
I always approach a new book by favorite author Susanna Kearsley with trepidation, fearing that that will be the one to disappoint me, but her whole body of work is so consistently great that not only I enjoy them but fail to choose my absolute favorite novel among the seven novels of hers that I have read, namely The Winter Sea, The Rose Garden, Mariana, The Firebird, Named of the Dragon, A Desperate Fortune, and now The Shadowy Horses.
The Shadowy Horses is unconventional as Kearsley’s novel go; first of all, the story line is told with a good dose of humor despite the area being haunted by a ghost, but the novel is populated by scientist and skeptics that poke fun at being haunted until they realize they cannot deny it any longer, thus I found myself chuckling and laughing out loud repeatedly throughout the book at the characters remarks. Second, it is not a dual narrative; this one is completely rooted in the present. Third, it’s not historical fiction, but a combination of several genres into what can be best described as contemporary fiction.
In The Shadowy Horses, Susanna Kearsley successfully combines romance, ghost story and mediumship (my own word, apparently), family secrets, background on archaeology and Roman military constructions, Latin, literature, folklore, and local history. All those topics make for intriguing and wonderful entertainment.
As I have mentioned previously in another one of my Kearley’s reviews, characters from one of her novels tend to make cameo appearances in another, or have a full subplot devoted to them. Such is the case of Robbie McMorran, whom we get to know here as a gifted child, and whose adventures get to follow further as an equally gifted adult in The Firebird. I enjoy paranormal stories, so I find Robbie’s story very endearing.
Overall, another winner for Susanna Kearsley.