Gothic Mystery and Fun Characters in 'Shadows of Swanford Abbey'

The Fiction Addiction

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Shadows of Swanford Abbey(cover art from the publisher)

Shadows of Swanford Abbey, by Julie Klassen, was described as Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie, so of course I was interested in reading this new book.

The novel has a lovely Agatha Christie feel, as the major players are all bumping into each other in the same hotel, turning up clues and misdirections. But it's more Gothic, since the hotel is a haunted former abbey. I also wasn't waiting for Poirot to come in and ask the right questions.  Our heroine, Rebecca Lane, must save herself, even if the abbey is exceptionally creepy at night...

There are several subplots happening at the hotel, even before we get to the central murder. Rebecca is trying to make contact with an author on her brother's behalf, but almost immediately bumps into her employer, who claimed to be staying with friends,  and bumps into Sir Fredrick Wilford, who she knew when she was a child. Fredrick has been led to the hotel by his brother, who may not be entirely truthful about his motives, either. And a ghostly figure keeps appearing, taking this from a typical whodunnit to a Gothic mystery.

Shadows of Swanford Abbey leans a bit more romantic than I was expecting from a mystery. It's all done in a pining Regency way, not a steamy way. Our leading man had a terrible romantic experience in his past and isn't sure he can get over it, even as he notices that our leading lady is all grown up. All our characters are aware of marriage as a business proposition and a social marker, even as they face their attractions and emotions. I think I tend prefer this style of romance to an easily-cleared misunderstanding.

I don't want to reveal too much about Shadows of Swanford Abbey, because discovering and guessing is such a pleasure in a mystery like this, but I can at least say that I enjoyed how the characters' personal subplots and backstories connected with each other and with the main murder mystery. There are some fun and memorable characters in this mystery -- and someone that you just love to hate. I also really enjoyed the Gothic descriptions of the former abbey, which felt like an homage to the whole style of Gothic pageturners and the girls who loved reading these thrillers.

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