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Review: House of Shadows by Pamela Hartshorne

Review: House of Shadows by Pamela Hartshorne

The talented Pamela Hartshorne (a writer and historian who lives in York) has built up a solid following and enjoyed considerable acclaim for such books as Time’s Echo, The Memory of Midnight and The Edge of Dark, with readers transfixed by her utterly involving, atmospheric writing. 

Hartshorne is a writer who enjoys taking us into some very strange and disturbing territory, as in the new book, the page-turning House of Shadows. Hartshorne’s heroine Kate Vavasour wakes up in hospital surrounded by her family – but this is not a comforting awakening for her.

Her family, she finds to her dismay, are all strangers, and Kate remembers nothing of her life before a fall from the roof at her home, Askerby Hall, left her incapacitated. The doctor's diagnosis is post-traumatic amnesia, and she is assured that her memories will return – but when they do, there is something seriously wrong.

Kate finds herself remembering the life of a long-dead ancestor, Isabel Vavasour, who lived and died at Askerby Hall four centuries earlier. And when a fragile Kate returns home to unconvincing reassurances, she finds the shadows of the past cast threateningly across her life in the present. Her new existence appears to be full of suspicion and betrayal, with no one around her she can trust.

This is compelling fare, forcing the reader to experience the same fears and anxieties as the heroine – a sure-fire tactic for involving the reader. As she has shown in earlier books, Pamela Hartshorne has a complete command of this kind of slowly unfolding narrative. And as the book moves into ever more menacing territory, we are as eager as the beleaguered Kate to find out just what happened to her ancestor in the distant and dangerous past – and how it can illuminate the present.

Pamela Hartshorne is an intriguing writer. Undoubtedly House of Shadows will leave you hungry for more.


House of Shadows by Pamela Hartshorne is published by Pan Macmillan, RRP £16.99