Shadows of Swanford Abbey – Julie Klassen | A (Brief) Book Review

News of her brother’s worrisome behavior spurs Miss Rebecca Lane to return home to her village. Upon her arrival, he begs her to go to nearby Swanford Abbey, a medieval monastery turned grand hotel rumored to be haunted. Feeling responsible for her brother’s desperate state, she reluctantly agrees to stay at the abbey until she can deliver his manuscript to a fellow guest who might help him get published–an author who once betrayed them. 

Soon, Rebecca starts seeing strange things, including a figure in a hooded black gown gliding silently through the abbey’s cloisters at night. For all its renovations and veneer of luxury, the ancient foundations seem to echo with whispers of the past–including her own. For there she encounters Sir Frederick–baronet, magistrate, and former neighbor–who long ago broke her heart. Now a handsome widower of thirty-five, he is trying to overcome a past betrayal of his own.

When the famous author is found dead, Sir Frederick makes inquiries and quickly discovers that several people held grudges against the author, including Miss Lane and her brother. As Sir Frederick searches for answers, he is torn between his growing feelings for Rebecca and his pursuit of the truth. For Miss Lane is clearly hiding something. . . .

Published 2021 | Add on: Goodreads or TheStoryGraph | 3.75 stars

My Thoughts

After feeling quite disappointed by Klassen’s 2020 release A Castaway in Cornwall, I did not have terribly high expectations for Shadows of Swanford Abbey.

Much to my relief, Shadows of Swanford Abbey held my attention. It encompasses everything that I enjoy about Klassen’s books – mysterious elements, solid writing and pleasant characters.

“With sunlight spilling through the window into her tidy, simple room, Rebecca’s earlier visions of the abbey – dark and dangerous – began to fade.”

Rebecca Lane is not a new favorite character, by any means, but she was pretty enjoyable. She has backbone – most of the time – and her struggles regarding her brother felt very relatable. Unfortunately, there were a few moments where Rebecca fell prey to needing-a-hero syndrome.

Sir Frederick is not particularly memorable, but he and Rebecca work well together and his belief in the importance of justice is admirable. Truly, he’s an all around decent guy.

Shadows of Swanford Abbey‘s side characters were mildly intriguing. Lady Fitzhoward made me quite curious, and in the end I was almost disappointed by the way her story concluded, although it was rather heartwarming. Miss Newport was interesting, and I would have loved to have heard from her POV.

“Once a mother, always a mother. We never stop caring for our children, even when they become adults. When their hearts break, our hearts break with them…Regulated to the background we may be, yet our children forever remain at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers.”

The setting was described beautifully. It left me dreaming of visiting the UK and seeing beautiful old abbeys and manors.

The mystery was well thought out and contained plenty of twists and turns. I did not guess who it was, but maybe I should have…

And that’s a wrap: Shadows of Swanford Abbey was an interesting story and a solid winter-time read.

Have you read any of Julie Klassen’s books? Or Agatha Christie’s books? (I have not, but I am considering finally picking one up soon.)

3 thoughts on “Shadows of Swanford Abbey – Julie Klassen | A (Brief) Book Review”

      1. Oooh, that’s a hard question 😅 I love so many of them!! My personal favorite of hers is “And Then There Were None”, but that one does have a rather slow start, so it might not be the best one to start out with… So maybe something like “Death on the Nile”, “The Caribbean Mystery”, “Murder at the Vicarage”, “Sleeping Murder”, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”, or “The ABC Murders” might be better 🤔 Judging by some of the books and movies you’ve reviewed on here, I can especially see you liking the atmosphere of “The Caribbean Mystery” or “Sleeping Murder”… I hope this helps!

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