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A Bed-and-Breakfast Mystery
By Mary Daheim

Avon, June 24, 2008 ($6.99)
ISBN-10: 006056654X
ISBN-13: 978-0060566531

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

In the dreary, damp Washington winter, innkeeper Judith Flynn is badly in need of a vacation, and is hoping for some sun and sand when her hubby says they can take one. Her cousin Rennie and husband go along for the ride. The ladies are less than pleased when they end up in dreary, damp Scotland. Their mates are quite happy that they've been invited to join a fishing trip with a Scottish cop Joe had befriended at a conference a few years back. They dump Judith and Rennie at a genuine Scottish castle that has been converted into a bed-and-breakfast by the slightly impoverished family. The castle is nice enough, and the care takers are okay, but the resident family has some problems. One of them is Chuckie, the laird's disabled son, who latches on to Judith and Rennie and has a habit of popping up where they least expected him. When one of the family is murdered, Judith decides to help the police with their inquiries, with no good reason to do so. Even Rennie, usually her staunchest supporter in her amateur detective work, tries to talk her out of it, pointing out that she is a guest in the home, a visitor in a foreign country, she doesn't really know any of the people involved, the local cops are probably very competent, and she should let them handle things. "No," Judith says, "I can't let anybody get away with murder."

Oddly enough, Judith doesn't really have to persuade the authorities to let her help. DCI MacRae tells her that she has a fine reputation in the crime fighting world, and he'd be delighted if she'd share her expertise with him. Apparently Joe's policeman friend has mentioned some of her exploits, and the local cops seem to think she's a member of the CIA or some other secretive agency. She does not discourage their belief.

I generally enjoy the books in this series, and it was nice for the characters to have an adventure in this scenic setting, but I have a few problems with it. Cousin Rennie has always had a tendency to be abrupt, outspoken, and even rude in her social interactions, but she goes way over the top in this book, coming across as a real Ugly American. At least this time Judith's equally quarrelsome mother only has a bit part, as her behavior can get very tiresome as well. I don't have this problem with Daheim's other series, the characters in Alpine are not as annoying as the ones in the bed and breakfast series. Fans of this series will probably enjoy the latest outing, but they may find themselves wondering why the heck Rennie does and says some of the things she does.

This book will be released on June 24, 2008. It is available for pre-order at online booksellers.

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