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Word Count: 745
Love among the graves Courting Shadows by Jem Poster 278pp SceptreI had expected bones of course though not in such abundance As first lines go its a good one Eleven unassuming little words but so seductive dramatic and drenched with implication What bones And why expected and why so many And who is this person anyway so suddenly compelled to share this sinister observation with us If great openings are meant to make the reader turn the page lets just say I turned it - and kept on feverishly turning to the very end Jem Posters first novel is as intelligent daring and profound as it is highly bewitchingly readable Its the winter of 1880 and John Stannard is a tense young architect from the provinces who has come to a remote English village to oversee the restoration of its decaying church Well-educated well-meaning yet disastrously arrogant and hugely lacking in self-awareness he finds the small population maddeningly superstitious unhelpful and backward-looking They find him brutally lacking in awareness disruptive unfeeling In fact they wish hed go away The village - poor honest tightly knit - is a place where everyone knows everyones business And soon a great deal is known about Stannard First that in excavating the churchs foundations he has uncovered a somewhat recent coffin and rather than leave it respectfully alone has had it brought up out of its grave to facilitate the building work As if that werent ill-judged enough when a local man is injured while working for him Stannard is - despite the desperate interventions of the local vicar - uncharitable about sick leave And then something else a beautiful local girl decides she wants to get to know our hero better and starts sending him love letters Stannard - uptight awkward sexually and emotionally ignorant of women - is both drawn and disconcerted Drawn because Ann Rosewell is beautiful and hes lonely but disconcerted
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