Passing Shadows (by Della Galton)

I wanted something light and undemanding to read on my Kindle for an hour or so on a recent flight, which I could then dip into at odd moments while travelling. Skimming through the couple of hundred items I’ve downloaded (mostly free) in the past few years, I spotted a novel by Della Galton, who is one of my favourite short-story writers.

‘Passing Shadows’ is about a young woman called Maggie who runs an animal rescue centre. She has recently finished a difficult relationship, and trying to avoid the attentions of the local vet. She’s also struggling to keep her centre going, relying on donations; and she desperately needs a handyman to mend broken fences and keep the place well maintained.

Into her life comes Finn, an artist who can turn his hand to maintenance and repair work. Maggie first meets him in tricky circumstances where she’s not at her best, but eventually he takes on temporary work and a room in her cottage. By rather a huge circumstantial leap, Finn turns out to have known (briefly) Maggie’s best friend Sarah, who has a delightful five-year-old son called Ben….

The revelation of exactly what part Finn played in Sarah’s past takes quite a while to unravel, although it was obvious from the first mention of circumstances what it was going to be. That didn’t matter; it was nicely done, with growing tension until Maggie learns the truth. She then has to keep the truth from Finn, because Sarah is scared of her fiancĂ©'s reaction; this is central to the book, but I had a hard time with that storyline, since I could not see any reason for lies on such a big scale.

Maggie’s dilemma, however, is real: does she go along with what her friend has begged her to do, constantly feeling that she’s keeping something important from Finn, or does she betray her friend’s confidence to tell the truth? I was also surprised at Finn’s extremely negative reactions when he discovers the truth.

Still, overall I enjoyed the novel. The writing is good, and in most cases the conversation sparkles. I liked the unusual setting, and loved Maggie’s deep compassion and sense of integrity. I don’t mind a slight suspension of reality in fiction, and perhaps there are people like Sarah who can’t trust anyone. The ending is perhaps a bit too neat and tidy, and the epilogue a little fluffy, but I like stories where all the loose ends are tied up, and that certainly happens.

There’s a slight layout problem in my Kindle edition, in that the name of Maggie’s mother’s hotel appears to have been set as a subheading, but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book (and may have been corrected in subsequent editions).

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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