The Vanished Days, by Susanna Kearsley

September 29, 2021 Book Reviews 4 ★★★★★

The Vanished Days, by Susanna KearsleyThe Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on October 5, 2021
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
Format: Kindle or ebook
Source: the publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble
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Also by this author: Named of the Dragon, The Shadowy Horses, Bellewether

From international bestselling author Susanna Kearsley comes a historical tale of intrigue and revolution in Scotland, where the exile of King James brought plots, machinations, suspicion and untold bravery to light. An investigation of a young widow's secrets by a man who's far from objective, leads to a multi-layered tale of adventure, endurance, romance...and the courage to hope.

In the autumn of 1707, old enemies from the Highlands to the Borders are finding common ground as they join to protest the new Union with England. At the same time, the French are preparing to launch an invasion to bring the young exiled Jacobite king back to Scotland to reclaim his throne, and in Edinburgh the streets are filled with discontent and danger.

Queen Anne's commissioners, seeking to calm the situation, have begun paying out money sent up from London to settle the losses and wages owed to those Scots who took part in the disastrous Darien expedition eight years earlier—an ill-fated venture that left Scotland all but bankrupt.

When the young widow of a Darien sailor comes forward to collect her husband's wages, her claim is challenged. One of the men assigned to investigate has only days to decide if she's honest, or if his own feelings are blinding him to the truth.

The Vanished Days is a prequel and companion novel to The Winter Sea, with action that overlaps some of the action in that book. The Vanished Days goes back in time to the 1680s and introduces the reader to the Moray and Graeme families.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.


Susanna Kearsley has written another beautiful, perceptive, and deftly written novel in The Vanished Days, with a lovely twist at the end. Unlike many of Kearsley’s recent “braided timeline” novels, there is no contemporary timeline; instead, the book follows Adam Williamson as he investigates the claim of Lily Aitcheson Graeme, a young widow whose husband perished in the ill-fated Darien expedition. The validity of the marriage is in doubt, and unless it can be proved, Lily cannot claim the money due to her as a surviving spouse.

But as Adam listens to Lily’s tale of her past, and questions those who knew her, he begins to suspect that there is more to this investigation than meets the eye. What or who is its real aim? Who is lying, and who is telling the truth? And where, finally, does his own loyalty lie?

The story unfolds in two timelines: Adam’s present (1707), and Lily’s past (the late 1600s.) The narrator throughout is Adam; his own tale is told in first person, while Lily’s is presented in third person. Both characters are complex and well-written, with hidden depths that slowly come to light. The novel as a whole, and Adam’s narration in particular, are beautifully constructed to keep you guessing. As you get deeper and deeper into the book, the relationships between various characters and the overall shape of what is going on become a little clearer, but it’s not until the end that everything falls solidly into place and you can see how each piece fits together.

I am already looking forward to rereading The Vanished Days with that understanding in mind. I also plan to reread The Winter Sea and others in Kearsley’s Scottish series. I love how so many of Kearsley’s books interrelate in small and subtle ways. The book is billed as a prequel and companion novel to The Winter Sea; indeed, it does introduce some of the Graeme and Moray family, but with two exceptions, they play a smaller role than I expected. Still, it was a pleasure to become acquainted with some of the earlier history of both families. There’s even a small thread connecting The Vanished Days to Bellewether. However, you could absolutely read it as a standalone.

I If you’ve never read Susanna Kearsley’s books, I cannot recommend her highly enough. Her novels are meticulously researched and beautifully written, subtle and supple and luminous, immersing the reader not only in the time period, but in the hearts and souls of her characters. I own very near all of them. Since it takes Ms. Kearsley about two years to research and write each novel, I have been reading her backlist slowly: savoring each book, so as not to run out of “new” ones too soon. The Vanished Days is a lovely addition to her oeuvre.

NOTE: For readers unfamiliar with the history of 17th- and early 18th-century Scotland and the Darien colony, a pair of author notes on the characters and historical accuracy offers some background, but a quick google search before reading might not come amiss.


About Susanna Kearsley

Bestselling author Susanna Kearsley says of herself:

I’m a former museum curator, avid amateur genealogist, and writer of modern gothic novels that interweave contemporary suspense and romance with historical adventure, meaning they don’t fit neatly into any category and are therefore a marketer’s nightmare.

The Bookseller once said of me, in a review, “She has a poetic sensibility and a sense of mystery; she could write the modern REBECCA.”

So that’s what I strive for.

Ms. Kearsley’s bestselling books, published in translation in more than 20 countries, have won the Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize, RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, a RITA Award, and National Readers’ Choice Awards, and have finaled for the UK’s Romantic Novel of the Year and the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel.

She lives near Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Seasons 2021: Summer

4 Responses to “The Vanished Days, by Susanna Kearsley”

  1. Katherine

    This is an author I’ve really been wanting to try and this sounds interesting. I especially love that everything does eventually fall into place. I need to give this book and this author a try.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Everything I have read by her has been really good. I think, though, that if you haven’t read her books, I would recommend starting with The Winter Sea, because even for a writer of Kearsley’s talent, it’s a standout.