Verity Grey is a young archaeologist who has recently quit her job at the British Museum and is looking for freelance work. Her former colleague (and ex-boyfriend) Adrian tells her about a potential job in the coastal town of Eyemouth, Scotland, but he is vague about the details. Nevertheless, Verity is intrigued enough to travel to Eyemouth for an interview. There she learns that the head of the expedition, wealthy archaeologist Peter Quinnell, is hoping to find traces of the Ninth Roman Legion, which appeared in Britain in the second century A.D. and then vanished from history. Verity is excited to be part of such a potentially major find — until she learns that Quinnell has no tangible evidence that the Ninth ever passed through Eyemouth. Rather, he is basing his expedition on the word of an eight-year-old boy who is said to have the second sight. Verity is extremely skeptical at first; but the longer she spends in Eyemouth, the more she becomes convinced that something supernatural is at work.
I was surprised to discover that, unlike many of Susanna Kearsley’s other novels, this book is not a work of historical fiction; all the action takes place in the present day. Aside from that, however, The Shadowy Horses definitely has a similar feel to Kearsley’s other books. There is a young, intellectual heroine who is fascinated by history; a story in the present that closely parallels a story in the past; various supernatural elements (in this case, a ghost!); and a romance. These are all things that generally appeal to me in books, but once again, I found myself unable to get emotionally involved with this novel. There is just something about Kearsley’s writing that keeps me at a distance; though her books (including this one) are very readable, I’m never on the edge of my seat, dying to know what will happen next. A lack of dramatic tension, perhaps? Anyway, I did enjoy this book — the bits about archaeology were especially fascinating, though probably a bit outdated now — but it wasn’t anything more than a pleasant read for me.