THE GRIPPING BEAST by Margot Wadley
St. Martin’s Press - April, 2001
ISBN: 0312272545 - Hardcover
Suspense / Thriller
Reviewed by Susan McBride, MyShelf.com
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Winner of the Malice Domestic Award sponsored by St. Martin’s Press, THE GRIPPING BEAST begins with the arrival of American tourist, Isabel Garth, on the Orkney Islands off the northern coast of Scotland. She’s there to see the place where her now-deceased father, Callum, had grown up. He left behind a number of journals that Isabel had pored over and which made her all the more determined to seek her roots. Also packed in her bags are letters from Callum’s lifelong best friend, Ben Gowan, that mention marks on a stone, possibly a hiding place for a treasure of some sort. Isabel isn’t sure what.
Just as she’s about to disembark from the boat at her destination, a red-haired “witch” known as Thora warns Isabel that there’s danger awaiting her and tells her to go home.
Shaken, but hardly scared off, Isabel heads to the inn in Digerness where she’ll be staying, only to wonder if Thora’s words weren’t true when she has several mishaps in days that follow. For starters, her sketchbook is stolen and her bags tampered with. Then someone shoves her into the street where she injures her knee, but thankfully doesn’t collide with any traffic. Small things, surely, but enough to make her wonder if a resident of Digerness doesn’t want her to stop poking around her father’s past.
THE GRIPPING BEAST is gently written, the
language rather poetic and old-fashioned. The book isn’t what we’ve come
to think of as a traditional mystery with a body found by page 10 and a snooping
protagonist concentrating all efforts on solving the crime. In a sense,
this novel reminded me of du Maurier’s REBECCA, more suspenseful than procedural.
The writing is effective in painting Isabel as an almost tragic figure, caught
in circumstances over which she has little control. The story is hers,
and it’s one I think readers will find more gripping with each turn of the page.
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