Shadows of Swanford Abbey Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen in this atmospheric Regency tale brimming with mystery, intrigue, and romance.
When Miss Rebecca Lane returns to her home village after a few years away, her brother begs for a favor: Go to nearby Swanford Abbey and deliver his manuscript to an author staying there who could help him get published. Feeling responsible for her brother's desperate state, she reluctantly agrees.
The medieval monastery turned grand hotel is rumored to be haunted. Once there, Rebecca begins noticing strange things, including a figure in a hooded black gown gliding silently through the abbey's cloisters. 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 - magistrate, widower, and former neighbor — who long ago broke her heart.
When the famous author is found murdered in the abbey, Sir Frederick begins questioning staff and guests and quickly discovers that several people held grudges against the man, including Miss Lane and her brother. Haunted by a painful betrayal in his past, Sir Frederick searches for answers but is torn between his growing feelings for Rebecca and his pursuit of the truth. For Miss Lane is clearly hiding something....
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|Listening Length||13 hours and 30 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||December 07, 2021|
|Publisher||Recorded Books, Inc.|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #24,525 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#51 in Christian Historical Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#88 in Christian Romance (Audible Books & Originals)
#136 in Regency Romance
Reviewed in the United States on March 2, 2022
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Top reviews from the United States
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So brew up a pot of tea and settle in for an enjoyable afternoon.
I was given a copy of this book by NetGalley with no expectations. All thoughts are my own.
Rebecca and Frederick were set up to be great characters as well. I wouldn't say they had romantic chemistry, but I sensed it was coming. While I was waiting, I did enjoy the friendship between them, particularly the flashback scenes. I also enjoyed some of the slightly more romantic or heroic scenes, like when Frederick tells off Ambrose Oliver for showing up at Rebecca's door drunk in the middle of the night.
Finally, I enjoyed what I saw of Rebecca and John's sibling relationship, and the depth that could've come from it. I appreciated the fact that although Rebecca was treated as John's caregiver, John did not read as helpless or "perfect in disability," so to speak. Within their sibling relationship, John and Rebecca are completely human and relatable. John is infuriatingly selfish at times, but anyone who's experienced any level of depression can relate to some of his actions. And Rebecca is a good representation of a sibling who loves her brother, but actually expects more from him (rather than wallowing in the self-pity of, "I love him, but he makes life horrible.") With Rebecca, it's more, "I love John, so I'm going to help him where I can and otherwise try to get us to a place of mutual healing."
Unfortunately, all these good points get buried in a lot of problems. The first and biggest is an excruciatingly slow pace. The mystery doesn't even begin until 200 pages in, which is a bit more than halfway through and way too late. Up to then, we mostly get narrative summary--explanations of who people are, relationships to each other, a couple of flashbacks, and so on.
Julie continues falling into telling over showing. Here, it's so egregious that you'll find phrasing like, "Rebecca wanted to see X," right next to, "And then she saw Y," or something to that effect. She also falls into this during the "solving" of the mystery, in that we get every single word of Frederick's inquest, but not a lot of movement or plot or character development.
As undeveloped as these characters are, there are also a *lot* of them. Few if any are developed beyond the label "hotel employee" or "hotel guest." I wouldn't have minded if there had been a few minor characters; after all, Swanford Abbey does read like your classic Agatha Christie, "closed circle" type of murder mystery. But the problem is, none of these characters move beyond names and labels. And speaking of names, every name seems similar. There are a bunch of F and H names, both for characters and places, that are difficult to keep up with.
All this said, this is still Julie Klassen. She can still write great books, and this one had the potential to be one of them. But it just didn't hit the right notes for me. I'll keep my eye on her and say better luck next time.
Top reviews from other countries
This book is a genteel murder mystery. All of the guests are hiding secrets. I particularly enjoyed following the side character’s mysteries.
I loved the romance, the slight references to Jane Austen novels, as well as the main characters, Rebecca and Frederick.
The main characters are clearly Christian, but their faith is not the main point of the plot.