The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan

   The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan is an atmospheric read, rich with detail. It follows two women, a grandmother and her granddaughter, both of whom are governesses at Fenix House, years apart. The story of Harriet Jenner, the older of the two, is set in 1878. Her granddaughter, Grace, follows in her footsteps, nearly fifty years later, in 1922. Her parents have been killed in a railway accident in 1910 which has devastated Grace and she has been brought up by her grandmother. It is Harriet who has instigated Grace going to Fenix House, seemingly for a purpose yet to be disclosed.

     The two women's stories are interwoven skilfully. Harriet's is told in the third person, giving it some distance in the past. Grace tells her own story in the first person. You realise, as Grace does, that her grandmother's version of her time there is not accurate and that she is an unreliable narrator. The story is full of suspense and mystery, with gothic undertones throughout. Fenix House, fallen into disrepair in Grace's day, looms in isolation. Harriet is given a copy of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre with its parallels to her situation. There are mysterious noises in the night with strange inhabitants in the attic rooms. The two governesses seem alone and at times defenceless.

    I found that the complicated plot bore me along, through all its twists and turns. The shifting perpsectives between the two times tantalised, As secrets were about to become uncovered, the story switched back and forward in time. The suspense was built up.  The characters were well drawn, especially Bertie and Agnes who, with others, are common to both times. The mystery behind Grace's purpose for being at Fenix House was gradually unravelled as were the links between the family and Grace and Harriet. I felt that the house and grounds were almost like characters themselves within the story and always dominated. Full of secrets, The Shadow Hour intrigued.

In short:  a detailed, textured mystery.

I was given a copy of the book by the publishers, Penguin, in exchange for an honest review. The Shadow Hour is published in paperback and ebook on February 25th 2016.



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