This was at least my third or fourth read of this book. I initially read it when the Berkley mass market paperback edition came out in 1992; that's the edition I bought new and still have. I read it again during the summer of 2016, shortly before Halloween Bingo and our buddy read of Michaels's Ammie, Come Home. And I've just read it again, along with Be Buried in the Rain.
This is my first review, however.
Pat Robbins has been widowed for a year. She and her college-age son Mark -- I believe he's 19 -- live in a huge old antebellum mansion in western Maryland. The style is American Gothic, not the Greek Revival pictured on the above cover. So the house is spookier looking, less like Tara.
Pat is a nurse for what I'm guessing is a doctor or doctors in private practice. Therefore she probably makes(or made, in the early 90s) decent money but not oodles. I'm not sure exactly what her husband Jerry did for a living before he died. Regardless how much Jerry fell in love with the house, an edifice like that requires . . . oodles . . . of money to restore, renovate, upgrade, and maintain. Not to mention taxes and utilities. It sits on a two-acre lot. Did I mention taxes?
Mark attends the local community college in part for the cost savings and in part to stay with his mom while she's grieving the loss of her husband and his father. Mark does not have a job.
After years, maybe decades, of sitting empty, the house next door to Pat's has been sold and Josef Friedrichs moves in with his teenaged daughter Kathy. I'm not sure exactly how old Kathy is -- maybe 16? -- but she is blonde and pretty and attends a private girls' school to which Josef drives her every day. Josef is obsessively protective of Kathy, so when she and Mark strike up a romance, Josef is bitter and nasty to both Pat and Mark, but especially to Mark. And his nastiness to Pat is about Mark.
Given what's revealed about Josef's prior marriage, I didn't understand his vicious antipathy toward his daughter's new boyfriend.
Anyway, the house is purchased, contractors come in to repair and redecorate, and Josef and Kathy move in.
This house is a mirror image twin of Pat's house. No explanation is offered as to why a single father with one daughter needs a three-story American Gothic mansion on two over-grown, untended acres, especially since said single father is decidedly anti-social. It's not like he's going to be entertaining or anything.
Within a few days of their moving in, weird things start happening. Creepy lights, attacks on both Kathy and Josef, and so on. Pat intervenes, and thus a relationship of sorts is established between the two families. The weird things get weirder and more dangerous, Mark and Kathy join forces to figure out what it is, and then everyone lives happily ever after.
Unlike the problems I had with the house in Ammie, Come Home, the twin mansions in The Walker in Shadows worked well with the story. There were no structural issues; other than the idea of two people rattling around in a house with five or six or eight bedrooms, the house part worked okay.
The historical research Mark and Kathy did to "solve" the mystery also worked well and made sense, with a somewhat surprising twist. The resolution to the supernatural aspect seemed a little too contrived and easy, but it wasn't totally out of the blue. I would personally have preferred a little more tension in the climactic confrontation but oh well.
Mark and Kathy's insta-love didn't pose a problem. They're both young and eager and their relationship is more catalyst than main plot, so good looking young man falls head over heels (almost literally) for pretty new neighbor and that's okay.
What didn't work for me at all was the romance between Pat and Josef. Pat is still grieving. Josef is still angry. That they fall in love and start calling each other "dear" and "darling" was just syrupy to me. I realized that Michaels seems to have this problem in a lot of her books -- the romances are often just not believable. It's as though they're thrown in because someone told her "we're going to publish it as romantic suspense, so make sure you have some romance."
There were major romance problems in Ammie, Come Home as explored in our buddy read analyses, and also in House of Many Shadows as well as Wait for What Will Come and Patriot's Dream. Michaels did better with the romances in both Be Buried in the Rain and Houses of Stone, but I'm not really sure why or how.
Could the romance threads in these novels have been improved? I think so, but I wasn't her editor! I guess my only comment at this point would be, don't count on a great romance woven through these books; just take them as they are.