One would be hard-pressed to find a more unpleasant protagonist than John Stannard. A young architect commissioned in 1881 to oversee the restoration of a rural English church, Mr. Stannard tells himself the assignment satisfies an old interest in ecclesiastic architecture. In fact, his reasons for escaping his own life and city practice are more complex. As a fuller picture of Mr. Stannard unfolds, a reader might understand him better but is unlikely to empathize with this man without empathy. He is as willfully blind to the suffering of others as he is to the historical and emotional significance of the artifacts that stand in the way of his objective. He can tear apart lives as remorselessly as he breaks apart the ancient church. Courting Shadows is a beautifully written if unsettling study of a man who seems truly incapable of appreciating beauty or understanding love.