Scones and Scoundrels
Highland Bookshop Mystery, Book #2
By Molly MacRae
Author Website: molliemacrae(.)com
Inversgail, on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands, welcomes home native daughter and best-selling environmental writer Daphne Wood. Known as the icon of ecology, Daphne will spend three months as the author in residence for the Inversgail schools. Janet Marsh and her business partners at Yon Bonnie Books are looking forward to hosting a gala book signing for her. Daphne, who hasn’t set foot in Scotland in thirty years, is . . . eccentric. She lives in the Canadian wilderness, in a cabin she built herself, with only her dog for a companion, and her people skills have developed a few rough-hewn edges. She and the dog (which she insists on bringing with her) cause problems for the school, the library, and the bookshop even before they get to Inversgail. Then, on the misty night they arrive, a young man—an American who’d spent a night in the B above Yon Bonnie Books—is found dead outside a pub.
Daphne did her Inversgail homework and knows that Janet and her partners solved a previous murder. She tries to persuade them to join her in uncovering the killer and the truth. To prove she’s capable, she starts poking and prying. But investigating crimes can be murder, and Daphne ends up dead, poisoned by scones from the tearoom at Yon Bonnie Books. Now, to save the reputation of their business—not to mention the reputation of their scones—Janet and her partners must solve both murders. And Daphne’s dog might be able to help them, if only they can get it to stop howling. . .
Molly MacRae can definitely pen an extraordinary mystery, set in the west coast town of Ingersgail in Scotland! After reading the first in series, I couldn’t not read this one. To me, for four women to pack up and close out their lives in the US to purchase a 99-year young bookshop in Scotland is daring and exciting. Janet, a retired librarian, and her daughter Tallie, a burned-out law professor, have spent many summers in Scotland in the past. Christine is originally from Inversgail and she returns in part to care for her aging parents. Summer attended Glasgow University and has wanted to return to Scotland ever since.
Janet and Tallie are in charge of Yon Bonnie Books, while Christine and Summer manage the attached tea shop and Summer handles the guests in the upstairs bed and breakfast. Inversgail has its own author, mystery writer Ian Atkinson, and is about to have a second, albeit short-term author. Daphne Wood is returning to Inversgail where she had grown up. A world-renowned environmentalist, she now lives in the Canadian wilds with her Pekingese pup, Rachel Carson.
As a visiting author, Daphne will lead various classes at the local schools, be a guest of honor and present an award to Alistair, Gillian Bennett’s father. Gillian is a principle teacher who led the at program to get a visiting teacher. Her father, Alistair, is a local environmentalist. Daphne and Gillian were inseparable as children. Daphne went through a “rough patch” as they grew older, and they attended different colleges. Gillian felt that Daphne might be a bit eccentric after living alone in the wilderness. Christine suggested, after hearing Daphne’s list of requirements for a book signing, that she is “barking mad”. To say that Daphne is eccentric is an insult to most eccentrics. She is opinionated and speaks without a filter. By the time the plaque is presented, she insulted many of in attendance and especially, Alistair. Janet does not look forward to Daphne’s book signing at the bookshop.
The evening Daphne arrives in town, a young man is found dead behind Nev’s, the small, local pub frequented by Janet and her friends. Sam Smith was from the States. He had also been a visitor to the bed and breakfast. Daphne, having heard that Janet and her friends had helped solve an earlier murder, wanted to work together to find the bad guy. She even suggested the acronym for their group, which was very unflattering. Janet did not want to investigate, nor did her friends want her to. It did seem, however, that the list of suspects that originally looked almost non-existent began to grow, but not until the crimes start multiplying. There are also questions asked about a secret whisky society.
This is a series that I very much enjoy, having wanted to visit Scotland for a long time. It has several elements that I enjoy in a cozy mystery: quirky characters, a bookstore, cats and dogs, and a gorgeous seaside setting. While Daphne pushes the envelope on quirky, living alone in the Canadian wilds might do that to a person. Christine, Janet, and Tallie are very well defined. It is unique in that it is the second novel in the series and romance is not on the minds of most of the characters, which is actually refreshing. The prose at times is almost lyrical, and while the ladies are very serious about their businesses, they also have time for fun and -laughter.
This novel is executed to perfection and captivated this reader from the beginning through to the end. I am still surprised at who the real bad guy/ gal turns out to be. While there are stunning plot twists and U-turns, I took my fishing pole and diligently sought those red herrings. I even bought into one of the theories the ladies had as the motives just sounded so…rational. Murder typically isn’t, however, and by time they figured out the who, they were almost dun – er, done. I highly recommend this exciting, brain-twisting new novel, Scones and Scoundrels, as well as the first in series, Plaid and Plagiarism.