Father Tim, a retired Episcopal priest, and his wife Cynthia have finally journeyed from their small North Carolina village across the ocean to the Emerald Isle for their long-awaited, often-postponed vacation. They arrive at Broughadoon, a fishing lodge on Lake Arrow in County Sligo, during a horrendous storm. The heavy rain and high winds result in the power being off at the inn. Not the best beginning for a vacation, and, truth be told, Tim isn't particularly fond of traveling.
"Clues to solve the theft are few and far between, and things are not always as they appear."
In their room, a man jumps out of the armoire, and a startled Cynthia severely injures her ankle. She cannot describe him due to the darkness, and thus begins the mystery. Nothing seems to be missing, so what exactly was the stranger’s intentions?
Cynthia is sidelined by her ankle, but Tim is very much in demand. His counseling skills are put to good use by many folks. Someone needs to confide. Someone else needs to confess. It seems that the owners of the inn, Anna and Liam Conor, both harbor sorrows and secrets. Up the hill from Broughadoon sits the mansion Catharmore, a 19th-century estate where Liam and his brother Paddy were raised. There’s bad blood between them. Their mother Evelyn is bitter, distant, and fighting a battle with alcoholism and severe guilt. Anna's daughter, Bella (from a previous marriage), is a very troubled young woman who possesses an extraordinary gift. It seems that both Catharmore and Broughadoon harbor secrets that threaten everyone except the paying guests. Then there is William, Anna's father, who has deep regrets of his own. Indeed, Broughadoon and Catharmore's very walls seem to bulge with sorrow.
Cynthia and Tim stumble across a dusty old journal in the inn's library and begin the laborious process of ferreting out the history of the property upon which Catharmore and Broughadoon sit. The handwriting is faded, but there is an important story in the journal entries written by Fintan Conor, MD, who had been trained in Philadelphia but returned to Ireland to practice. He was responsible for the building of what is now Catharmore. Details in his faded writing of the past prove helpful in understanding the present.
One evening, Bella shares her wonderful violin skills with the guests and employees of Broughadoon. While everyone is assembled for the musical entertainment, a much-treasured and expensive painting belonging originally to Liam's father disappears. Clues to solve the theft are few and far between, and things are not always as they appear. The plot is quite complicated, and there is the ever-present thread of interconnectedness between the old journal and the present that keeps readers turning pages.
Fans of Jan Karon will find IN THE COMPANY OF OTHERS quite different from her Mitford series. There are brief references to Dooley, Tim's adopted son, and a few other residents of Mitford, but this follow-up to HOME TO HOLLY SPRINGS reads more like an historical soap opera than a typical Karon novel. Still, it’s worth noting that Karon considers this new book to be her favorite of all the works she has penned, and it will be interesting to see how she ends this trilogy.
Reviewed by Carole Turner on January 22, 2011
In the Company of Others: A Father Tim Novel