Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Shadow Hour - Kate Riordan

If your name is Kate…….

What is it with me? If a writer’s name is Kate then it seems I am a fan. Kate Atkinson, Kate Morton, Kate Mosse, Kate Summerscale and ….. Kate Riordan.

I enjoyed Birdcage Walk, I loved The Girl in the Photograph and I think this most recent offering, The Shadow Hour, is wonderful. What is so delightful to me is to see how a writer develops and matures with each book they produce. How they refine and define their art is so satisfying. In my opinion each of Kate Riordan’s books is better than the last.

This current tale, like the Girl in the Photograph, claims an old house as an additional and prominent character but here the atmosphere and description offer that little bit deeper sense of events from the past defining the present. It’s as if the house has its own personality.

The atmosphere of the period is beautifully created and sustained throughout. The research is thorough and seamless. There is no sense or desire on the part of the writer to push the fruits of their research at the reader as can so often happen. It’s intrinsic to the story. Whereas in The Girl in the Photograph we seemed to walk alongside the house, here we are invited into its depths to experience the very essence of Fenix House and feel what Harriet and Grace are feeling.

For the most part the plot is well structured if not a little too convoluted. There was a development towards the end that would not have lessened the impact of the story had it been omitted. It clouded things a little for me. But that is my sole niggle.

The characters are real and not just there as plot devices. You feel like you get to know them all, young and old, rich and poor, servant and master, goodies and baddies.

Any preconceived comparisons are dealt with effectively with a lovely, literary allusion. (Can’t divulge as I won’t do spoilers).
These aspects convince me that ee have a writer who cares about her work and her readers. One of those mutually beneficial relationships that is not always there in contemporary fiction.

There are no real page turning, cliffhangers, rather some gasps and surprises in parts fully in keeping with the mood evoked as the story unfolds.

I couldn’t put it down, I wanted to read on and it was one of the books where you feel sad when it ends and that’s exactly how I felt about the Girl in the Photograph too.

I hoe Kate Riordan is writing another book as we speak because it wont be a moment too soon!!

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