The Gripping Beast is a really "gripping" story of murder, theft and romance. It's a quick read with only 200 pages and you won't want to put it down. It also won the SMP/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery award in 2000. After finishing this book I searched online for more works by Ms. Wadley and found The Gripping Beast to be the only book credited to the gifted author. That's too bad because I thouroughly enjoyed her writing.
After the death of her father, Isabel Garth travels to the The Orkney Islands which are famous for their mysterious rings, stone circles and Viking graves. It's no wonder that there are still some superstitious beliefs and behaviours exhibited among the people who inhabit those ancient places. Isabel's father grew up on the Islands and after reading about his boyhood from his journels, Isabel decides to go there to see this place he loved so well.
Almost immediately after getting off the ferry in Stromness, Isabel is warned by a local witch that she is in danger. After forming relationships with some of the people in town she is soon learns that not everything is what it appears to be. Someone is out to hurt her and there are definitely big secrets being kept. A Viking treasure is hidden somewhere on the island and many there think Isabel knows where it is. After Isabel comes across a dead body, she begins to put the pieces together. In a most precarious and dangerous place the killer is confronted by Isabel and the treasure is revealed.
I really enjoyed the sense of place that Margot Wadley created with the Orkney Islands. It made me want to look up this location and see the pictures for myself. I think she was "spot on" with her descriptions. She also has a different quote from Shakespeare's Macbeth before each chapter. I think it is interesting how it seems to declare the theme for the chapter. The story will have your heart racing as you reveal each layer of this intricately woven tale.