I am still madly in love with Scotland since my trip there last year, so just about any book that’s well reviewed and set in Scotland is guaranteed to catch my eye. Add in history of most kinds- the Romans in particular- and it’s pretty much a given that I will add it to my ‘must read’ list.
So it was with Susanna Kearsley’s The Shadowy Horses, which is set in the fishing village of Eyemouth, on Scotland’s eastern coast. The narrator, Verity Grey, travels north from London for a job on a possible archaeological dig site. Her new boss, Peter Quinnell, has spent a lifetime searching for the lost Ninth Legion of Rome. His obsession has made him the laughingstock of his profession, but he carries on in spite of it, convinced that this new site will finally provide the answers he’s looking for. His evidence? The word of a psychic eight-year old boy, who tells stories about the ghostly Roman sentinel that only he can see.
I fell into this book quickly enough. It helped that I remember seeing Berwick and the eastern coast from my long train rides between London and Inverness, and the characters are drawn well enough that I could picture them in my head, along with the town of Eyemouth, and the house of Rosehill, where most of the story takes place. The prose is fine, too; smooth enough to keep the story moving, but not particularly memorable for its elegance. The characters and setting are the story elements that take center stage here.
My problem with this book came at the ending. They very short, sudden ending with a bit of a twist that felt like it came out of nowhere, and climactic events were skimmed over as though Kearsley was tired of the story and just wanted to be done with it. After the slow burn of a budding relationship, the progress of the dig, and the building supernatural elements, the sudden end left me wanting more.