Romantic Mystery Novel

Shadows Fall

a whodunit by Barbara W. Klaser

There's a little bit of sleuth in everyone....

Shadows Fall is a romantic mystery set in an old, closed resort in the Sierra Nevada of California.

Barbara W. Klaser, romatic mystery and whodunit author, photo from 1970s

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cover art for Shadows Fall, a whodunit and romantic mystery

Sample Chapters

Reviews of Shadows Fall

Links to offsite reviews that open in a new window:
Robyn Glazer | Lorie Ham

Robert A. Sloan

The characters in Shadows Fall are as memorable as the premise is grim. Few things in life are as disturbing or as cruel as that simple old standby in the movies, a frame. Innocent people are convicted of crimes often and tragically in reality. Mystery novels dwell in a region of justice where that terrible wrong can be righted with wits and courage. Few authors show the devastating effects that an accusation, let alone imprisonment, can have on the family and the people around the victim. That's what sets this gut-wrenching thriller above the pack.

Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dance
reprinted with permission August 18, 2001

Nancy Marple

I'm also fortunate to be reading Barbara Klaser's SHADOWS FALL, which has been enjoyable all along. This is an Americanized traditional English Country House mystery with a bitter underlying twist. Beth Gray returns to her family's home and Lodge after a term in prison for a murder she allegedly committed as a teenager. Newly divorced, Beth and her wonderfully characterized daughter Abby come home to visit Beth's mother Emily, only to find an enemy waiting there.

Barbara's characterizations are very astute and show a powerful understanding of human nature. Beth experiences the anger and hatred of the community as well as members of her family based on their beliefs about her past. And she experiences plenty of romance as well.

This upscale mystery with its sometimes too-beautiful protagonist and too-perfect setting also reflects family and interpersonal dynamics at a high level. The dialogue is sometimes uncomfortable but never boring. Even many of those closest to her become suspect when Beth begins to have one bad experience after another. A good mystery-thriller. Although this book was much longer than anything I usually read, I thoroughly enjoyed it and will look forward to more from Barbara Klaser.

Nancy Marple
Academic and General Editing
reprinted with permission March 7, 2001

Christine I. Speakman...
for Futures Magazine Website Reviews

In Shadows Fall perceptions, lies, and family secrets weave a tapestry of destruction and heartache.

At seventeen, Beth Gray was found guilty of killing fourteen-year old Ollie Stevens. Now, fifteen years later, she's a successful clothing designer and is bringing her young daughter home to meet the family. Most are not exactly thrilled to have Beth home. Beth had always been the favoured child, the one who would inherit the family Lodge and home, the one who had all the boys' attention; the one who was drugged into submission by their own father, a doctor. Something happened to Beth when she was small and the repercussions are still controlling Beth's life.

At first, my reading of this novel was hesitant; it felt boring. The main character, Beth Gray, had always proclaimed her innocence and now, upon arriving home years later, stumbled into the decision to clear her name. I've read other books like this and have seen too many movies of the week containing a similar plot. However, at some point, I don't know when it happened, I became locked into the story and began to like the character, Beth.

Ms. Klaser has written Beth with a certain honesty and acceptance. The character had accepted everything that had happened to her, being found guilty, prison, family members not believing her; she wasn't about to force them to believe and accept her, she just wanted to introduce her daughter to them. Beth could have ended up a weak and washed out character, too accepting of fate; however, Ms. Klaser uses conversations between Beth and her daughter to give us inside information that helps to establish Beth as a character we can believe. There is a natural progression as other characters rediscover Beth and change their views about her. There is subtleness to the novel.

The only weaknesses I found were in the speed of the love story between Beth and Peter, and new friend Leigh's determination to prove Beth's innocence, before Leigh ever met Beth he believed she was innocent. Both characters were needed, though. They represented an outsider's view of the family, again an opportunity to establish Beth as a strong character.

This is a clearly written novel that left a distinct picture in my mind of the location and characters. The ending is satisfying and realistic. I had to force myself to stop reading and take needed breaks; it's a long book and one that made my winter days a little less bleak.

Christine I. Speakman...for Futures Magazine Website Reviews
reprinted with permission March 2, 2001

Victoria Tarrani

Mystery and romance that thrill, chill, and hook you...

From the moment, I read the first two paragraphs of Shadows Fall I was hooked. What I had anticipated from a genre of a romantic mystery was a gentle heroine who discovered the object of her affection had a mysterious background. To find Beth Gray, the heroine, standing over a dead body with a loaded gun in her hand was shocking.

Fifteen years later Beth and her own daughter Abby are back. The thriller begins after Beth, who was convicted for murder and then released early, returns to her family estate "The Wilder Mountain Lodge" which is located on the west slope of Shadow Lake in California. The property value could be a clue to the identity of the real murderer.

Fourteen-year-old Ollie was involved with Beth's sister Vicky. At thirteen Vicky was enchanted by the handsome boy, and refused to forgive her sister. Her brother Matt, though he loved Beth dearly, testified against his sister at the trial. The traumatic events created an emotional dilemma for the young man.

Her romantic interest is introduced so casually in Chapter One that readers may not notice the connection between the two. It is ethereal, but perfect because we have all experienced that "there is something about her/him that I can't explain" feeling.

I will not provide a list of suspects and motives. Rest assured that there are a plethora of clues (and some red herrings) that will keep you turning pages. In many ways, this book reminded me of Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians." There are only a limited number of people who could have killed Ollie. In self-protection, the killer will strike again. Beth, Abby, and everyone she knows is in danger or dangerous.

Although there are a few cliché descriptions in Shadows Fall they do not detract from the plot, characters, surprises, and puzzle. This is a crime solver's delight; a romance that touches our hearts. This, most likely, will become a movie in which Winona Rider would be the perfect Beth.

If you start reading at dawn, suddenly it will be time to turn on some lights. The excuse will be that it is getting too dark to read. Too dark to be in the house with a killer -- the characters are so real that you know they are there with you.

Do not just wait for the movie -- let your heart race with this 5 star book that should become a New York Times Best Seller.

Victoria Tarrani
reprint permission granted Novemeber 27, 2001; reprinted here July 14, 2004.
Note: this review originally appeared at

Nancy B. Leake

Memories overwhelmed Beth Gray when she returned home to the old lodge in her big white Mercedes. To look at her, no one would ever dream she was a murderer returning to the scene of a fifteen-year-old crime. Coming home to visit her mother and to introduce her daughter, Abby, to her grandmother, hid the real reason for the visit, to chase ghosts. Only her mother wanted her here. Most of her brothers and sisters looked at her with hate.

At the age of seventeen, she was found holding a gun over the bloody body of Ollie Stevens. Everyone believed she killed him. Beth claimed to have picked up the gun when she found him dead. No one listened. She spent six years in prison and three years on parole. One condition of her parole had been to stay out of Wilder, California. After prison, she married, divorced, and lived under an alias, as a famous designer, in San Diego. Now she was free to set things right by returning to silence the nightmares that awoke her almost nightly. "The past has driven me back here, it won't let go. It keeps hammering at my mind…"

While in prison, she had saved a nurse from another prisoner's wrath and was shot in the knee for her deed. In the process, she had met Dr. Peter Lloyd, a caring man who became drawn to her. He operated on her smashed knee and befriended her, while she tried not to open to him. After his wife died, he never forgot Beth's stories of fishing and her mother's lodge.

When Beth glimpsed Peter at the lodge, he pretended not to know her. Their attraction was stronger than ever. The understanding Peter offered, softened the animosity of her family. Soon Peter, Beth and Abby became a threesome, and scouted trails in the countryside. Warm feelings also bubbled up in Beth for her high school fiancé, Gabriel?

Beth thought of staying and running the lodge, but couldn't change the past. No one wanted to forgive or forget. Beth's claustrophobia flourished, as mysterious happenings occurred, doors closed and locked her in, and someone tore up her drawings. Then someone shot at her. Were they trying to kill her or scare her away? She couldn't give her heart to Peter or Gabriel until she felt free from the shadows that hung in her mind, free from being wrongfully accused, if ever.

Barbara Klaser has crafted a mystery of terror and romance with all the clues in place, but the reader won't find an answer until the end of Beth's twisting and turning nightmare. Those with heart problems, asthma, or ulcers should contact their doctors' or pre-medicate themselves before reading this story, and if shortness of breath or chest pain develops, call 911.

© 2000, Nancy B. Leake, Reviewer
All Rights Reserved
reprinted with permission 12/5/00


April, 2004--a free mystery novel titled Snow Angels.

Shadows Fall may be cross classified under the following book search categories: fiction, whodunit, romantic mystery, psychological suspense.

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All characters and events in the novels on this website are fictitious. They are solely products of the author's imagination. Any similarity to real persons or events is purely coincidental.

Copyright (c) 2001 Barbara W. Klaser. All rights reserved