PLAID AND PLAGIARISM
By Molly MacRae
Pegasus Crime, 2016
Kindle edition: $12.99
The Highland Bookshop Mystery series (Book 1)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Four friends from various walks of life join forces to run Yon Bonnie Books in the Highland town of Inversgail. Janet Marsh is a retired librarian from Illinois. She and her family own a vacation home in the town, the scene of many happy memories. She got it in the divorce, and now it will be her forever home. Christine Robertson grew up in Inversgail, but spent forty years in Illinois with her professor husband. She and Janet became fast friends there. Tallie, Janet’s daughter, decided owning a bookstore/tea shop was more to her liking than law. Summer Jacobs, Tallie’s college roommate, hung up her journalist’s notebook for a more serene life. They are excited to start this new chapter in their lives, but apprehensive about whether they can make it a success. Things get off to a rocky start.
Janet is waiting for Jess Baillie, the estate agent who’s been handling her property, to give the go-ahead to move in, but Jess keeps putting her off. Finally Janet and her partners visit the house to see what the holdup is, and they get an ugly surprise. The kitchen is full of garbage, and Jess is in the act of either dumping the trash or picking it up. She admits she’s trying to clean up the mess, and she blames “Ug,” Una Graham, for doing the deed. She claims Ug, the advice columnist for the local newspaper, of trying to ruin her life. Jess won’t explain her strange claim, but there must be something big between them.
They learn from others who know Una that she has the reputation of being nosy and aggressive. When she comes into the bookstore, she pulls out all her charm, telling the ladies she wants to interview them for the newspaper. Any publicity is good publicity, right?
When they return to Janet’s house, they are dismayed to find more garbage, but that’s not the worst of it. Una’s brutally beaten corpse is found in Janet’s shed. She’d always hated that shed, and she illogically blames her ex-husband for the murder because he had insisted on building that darn thing. The ex- is in fact in the area, and he just might have a motive. There are numerous other suspects: Una had ruffled many feathers. Janet’s neighbor, the reclusive mystery writer Ian Atkinson, is up to something. The former owners of the bookstore, Pamela and Kenneth Lawrie, are acting oddly. There’s no love lost between Una and the town librarian.
The police force tasked with the investigation is inclined to wrap it up quickly, and won’t listen to the ladies’ theories. The local bobby, whom Christine’s known since he was a wee bairn, takes them seriously and works with them to solve the crime, which, of course, they do.
The beauty and charm of the highland village, with its salt-tanged air, fields of bluebonnets, the river flowing through, full of fish, is all described in vivid detail. The characters are fully rounded, their history, folklore, and way of life add to the story.
This is the first in the Highland Bookshop Mystery series, and it is a delightful beginning. Recommended for fans of traditional mysteries. It’s reminiscent of M.C. Beaton’s highland mysteries, and also of Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand series.
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