REVIEW: Orkney Mystery by Miranda Barnes
So many questions left unanswered…
Freda Nicholson was always an aloof and mysterious character within her family. So much so, that Emma Mason knows nothing of this distant great aunt and neither do her relatives. But for Emma, this would change when there is news of her Aunt Freda’s death. Emma is left as the sole inheritor of Freda’s home, ‘Borch House’.
Mystified, Emma travels to the deepest north of the United Kingdom, to the Scottish island of Orkney, so she can manage her aunt’s property and sell it.
Upon arriving in Orkney, Emma sets to find out some information about her long-lost aunt, hoping that she will learn about why Freda left the property to her. But frustratingly, there is little to learn.
Soon Emma wonders why a woman of ninety would want to live in such a large house by herself? With all her questions, Emma is determined to keep the house until she finds out more. The townspeople are kind enough to her in her search for answers and local, Gregor, helps her to piece parts of her Freda’s life together.
During her search and exploration of her aunt’s life, Emma cannot help but become increasingly charmed by the ancient and untouched landscape of Orkney. When she heads back to Newcastle, her heart also seems to stay in Orkney. And with Gregor, although his sister tells Emma that Gregor has not moved on from since his wife passed away. How close will Emma get to unravelling the truth about her mysterious aunt?
And will she be able to forget Orkney? Or the man who helped her the most?
Orkney Mystery is a quaint and intriguing story about secrets, love and family.
Dear Ms. Barnes,
“Orkney Mysteries” has such a lovely cover but really, is this supposed to be basically treeless Orkney? This is another lovely, gentle romance wrapped in a mystery which turns out to make perfect sense – both for Emma to pursue and for her to need to solve.
Poor Emma’s stomach isn’t initially up to the ferry ride to Orkney – or the Mainland as the Orcadians refer to it. What do they call the actual mainland Emma wants to know? Well, Scotland, of course. The local terms and speech patterns add color to the story along with the rain, rain, rain. It’s only ten times a day per Emma’s guesthouse hosts.
The mystery here is (Great) Aunt Freda. What did she do in life and why did she leave her (large for one person) house to Emma? Emma’s mum is no help since Freda was actually Emma’s gran’s sister. Only a vague and distant name to Emma, she wonders why her female relations are so cagey about Freda who appears to have been something of a local Orcadian celebrity. How did she make her living and what brought her there in the first place as they have never had a family tie to Orkney. Emma gets more intrigued as she realizes how little she knows.
As a local man helps Emma peel back the mystery surrounding her relative, Emma gets to see Orkney and learn myriad things about its history from ancient Pictish and Norse settlements and monuments to what Italian POWs did during WWII. And yes, it is fascinating.
After returning home to Newcastle, Emma queries her mum and gran about Freda but still gets nothing though Emma senses they know more than they’ll admit. They either can’t or won’t – and Emma is beginning to suspect the latter – tell her more which only serves to spur Emma on. At least Gregor still seems interested in helping Emma solve the puzzle.
Fortunately for them, the Internet serves up a few clues and some contemporaries of Freda’s are found. An old but sad war time story emerges which shows Freda’s strength and love for others and leads Emma and Gregor to their own happy Orkney Ending. B