Title: Plaid and Plagiarism: Book 1 in the Highland Bookshop Mystery Series
Author: Molly MacRae
Publication: Pegasus, Hardcover, 2016
Janet and her evil ex had bought a vacation home in Inversgail (which she got to keep after the divorce), and when the ladies go to check on the house, they find a dead body in the garden shed. As they settle into their new village, this intrepid foursome tries to help the local police solve the crime, in this first of a new series.
Audience: Fans of cozy mysteries, those who like books about books, and those yearning to go manage a bookstore in the Highlands (or anywhere else).
My Impression: I read a great review of this book and wanted to love it because I am definitely one of those people who romanticizes moving to a small village to run a bookshop (and with my luck, there would definitely be a dead body in my garden shed). However, having worked in publishing for 17 years, I also know that even one person can barely make a living owning/managing a bookstore so in addition to wondering how these characters (one is Scottish by birth so perhaps retained her citizenship while in the US) obtained work permits to move to Scotland, I wondered how they were going to pay for the mouthwatering scones they enjoy, not to mention everything else – Janet’s alimony was described as generous but it seemed unlikely her academic ex-husband had very much to spare.
Logistical quibbles aside, I would have liked more of a sense of place. The premise was fun but the delivery was weak. These characters could really have been anywhere, not a quaint town in Scotland, and a few mentions of plaid and haggis were insufficient to set the scene, although there were quirky characters galore. Other than Janet being headstrong and bitter about her ex-husband and several mentions of the careers each had abandoned for Inversgail, there wasn’t enough about the four women to really distinguish them from each other. As a result, I did not care much what happened to them. The mystery itself was secondary to the women’s eagerness to help solve it. There were many red herrings (to go with a number of peculiar individuals whose behavior was never fully explained) – I am not sure if I fell for one or conjured it up on my own, but I certainly did not figure out who the killer was or guess why the murder had occurred.
Last year I read about a bookstore in Wigtown, Scotland where one can have a working holiday by renting a week at a bookstore through Airbnb. Of course, I yearn to go to the Open Book and keep shop - what a combination of Maida's Little Shop and the bookstore dreams I am too practical to have. Wigtown has been officially designated Scotland's National Book Town so I suppose it would be fun to visit even without getting to live above a bookstore - the waiting list for the Open Book appears to go through 2018, alas!
Source: I requested this book from the Boston Public Library after reading about it in Publishers Weekly.