Of Books and Bagpipes
Scottish Bookshop Mystery, Book #2
By Paige Shelton
Author Website: paigeshelton.com
Delaney Nichols has settled so comfortably into her new life in Edinburgh that she truly feels it’s become more home than her once beloved Kansas. Her job at the Cracked Spine, a bookshop that specializes in rare manuscripts as well as other sundry valuable historical objects, is everything she had dreamed, with her new boss, Edwin MacAlister, entrusting her more and more with bigger jobs. Her latest task includes a trip to Castle Doune, a castle not far out of Edinburgh, to retrieve a hard-to-find edition of an old Scottish comic, an “Oor Wullie,” in a cloak and dagger transaction that Edwin has orchestrated.
While taking in the sights of the distant Highlands from the castle’s ramparts, Delaney is startled when she spots a sandal-clad foot at the other end of the roof. Unfortunately, the foot’s owner is very much dead and, based on the William Wallace costume he’s wearing, perfectly matches the description of the man who was supposed to bring the Oor Wullie. As Delaney rushes to call off some approaching tourists and find the police, she comes across the Oor Wullie, its pages torn and fluttering around a side wall of the castle. Instinct tells her to take the pages and hide them under her jacket. It’s not until she returns to the Cracked Spine that she realizes just how complicated this story is and endeavors to untangle the tricky plot of why someone wanted this man dead, all before getting herself booked for murder. (from Goodreads)
How exciting to be in Edinburgh, Scotland again, visiting Delaney in her new home across the pond! One of the armchair travels I enjoyed the most in 2016 began when Delaney read the ad for The Cracked Spine bookstore, left her Kansas home for a new adventure in Scotland. Paige Shelton has done beautifully at introducing her readers to the beauty of the land, the quaint architecture, and the uniquely welcoming folks.
The owner of The Cracked Spine, Edwin MacAlister, and his staff Hamlet and Rosie are like family to Delaney now, as are Elias and his wife Aggie, her landlords. Edwin sounds like the ideal boss in every way, especially as he trusts Delaney more and more to research and assist with the unique books and antiquities. At least until she began to learn the bits and pieces of some of Edwin’s secrets from several decades earlier.
Delaney, with the companionship and taxi of Elias, her landlord, went to a castle to pick up a vintage, collectible comic book from the son of an old friend who would be dressed as William Wallace, the character from Scottish history that he reenacted. The castle was not a popular destination in the way that many others were, and they didn’t see anyone at all, much less who she was to meet. When she did finally meet the man they were to see, she found him, dead, on a stairway. On her way to the parking lot to head off visitors, Delaney found the heavy, 2-year annual edition of ‘Oor Wullie’ and took it for Edwin.
Discovering how the young man died, why, and at whose hand leads Delaney through neighboring towns and countryside. Some people she met were friends or acquaintances of the young man and some who are life-long friends or acquaintances of Edwin. In the case of the young man, he was the son of a friend who died in a fire two years earlier. It is a sweeping ‘investigation’ as Edwin grieves the young man and past events, unable to be of help to Delaney. Past and present meet across social classes and various walks of life. The more she learns, the more pieces there are of a puzzle in which someone has kept the picture on the lid hidden from sight.
It is interesting to me to learn more about Scotland and her history. For one, I was unaware of the deep reverence that many Scots feel for their land and its history; it is hard to fathom living in a country whose history goes back many, many centuries. I was also surprised to learn that there was typically little snowfall in Edinburgh. The author brings history to life through Delaney, for example when she ponders what it was like to live in the stark differences the castles of 13th century Scotland.
What Delaney calls her ‘bookish voices’ are also fascinating, especially when she allows them to help her determine the correct course of action. I wonder if those voices are more helpful or less helpful to her as she works in such an intriguing bookstore and historic land. I enjoy seeing Delaney’s research of various items and situations. It is amazing to me, who had a much more liberal reading structure in high school, that this young woman is not only so well-read, but also has an excellent memory of the books, plays, and poetry. Delaney’s loyalty to Edwin, her co-workers, and friends is exemplary, and it is delightful to see her and Tom get to know each other better.
There are many plot twists, at least one or two resulting in red herrings and some with solid, helpful leads. I love the complexity of the mystery and depth of the primary characters. The pace is steady overall, interspersed with action-packed scenes until a certain point in which the action escalates to non-stop. I was very surprised to find out who the real bad guy/ gal was, which is the way I like mysteries. The ending is very satisfactory and I am already looking forward to the next visit to Scotland. I highly recommend this to cozy mystery lovers with an appreciation for Scotland, bookstores, and incredibly well-written stories.