Paige Shelton’s Scottish Bookshelf Mystery Series is the next of the most popular and recommended Cozy Mystery series that I will be highlighting. As I mentioned last month, I have read The Cracked Spine as part of my effort to cover some of the most popular Cozy Mystery series.
Delaney Nichols, 29 years old, had just been laid off from her job working in a Wichita, Kansas museum when she spotted a quirky ad:
Wanted: A bold adventurer who would love to travel the world from a comfortable and safe spot behind a desk that has seen the likes of kings and queens, paupers and princes. A humble book and rare manuscript shop seeks a keenly intelligent investigator to assist us in our search for things thought lost, and in our quest to return lost items to their rightful owners. This multitasked position will take you places you can’t even imagine. Apply only if you’re ready for everything to change. Please note: the position is located in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Before she knew it, Delaney had the job. She had interviewed for an hour and a half over the phone with Edwin MacAlister, the owner of The Cracked Spine, a small bookshop in Edinburgh, Scotland, specializing in rare books (and other rare things), and was immediately offered the job.
Delaney, who was seeking an adventure and a job that she could throw herself into, has a striking appearance:
I’d been afflicted with the brightest tones: the fieriest red hair, the palest skin dotted with orange freckles, and light green eyes. I’d long ago become used to people’s reactions when they first saw me back home in the small town close to my family’s farm. There was usually a double take, sometimes a small gasp, and then a big forced smile to cover their shock at all my … glow. However in Wichita and Scotland, it seemed, no one had so much as given me a second glance.
When she gets off the plane in Edinburgh, she meets Elias McKenna, a cab owner and small-time landlord, who, along with his wife Aggie, quickly become Delaney’s new friends.
In the bookshop, Delaney meets the other employees, Rosie (“old, probably closer to seventy than sixty”) and Hamlet, a young man who works in the bookstore part time while attending school. When she meets him, Hamlet is dressed like, well, “Hamlet”, since he is also engaged in acting in local theater.
Edwin, the shop owner, is very wealthy, and he has a many wealthy friends who become suspects in the murder investigation that inevitably ensues.
Delaney becomes engrossed, you might say obsessed, with solving the murder that happens soon after her arrival in Edinburgh. Through dogged persistence, she eventually discovers the killer.
Delaney meets a romantic interest, Tom Fletcher, the local pub owner, very soon after arrival. Tom of course is wearing a Kilt when they meet. Their mutual attraction is instant:
I didn’t realize we were still holding hands. He smiled—almost sheepishly—and pulled his hand away. I had a sense that something pushed me from behind and wanted me to step closer to him. I resisted but it wasn’t easy.
“I’m glad you’re real,” I said before I could stop the words from propelling out of my mouth.
He cocked his head and blinked and then smiled.
“I’m glad you’re real too, Delaney. Please come by the pub anytime. If you haven’t tried Scottish whisky, you must. At least a sip. On me.”
And, there is a touch of paranormal in the book. Delaney hears voices from books. She has done so since she was a child. These voices seem not to be the normal recollections of things she has read, but actual voices that speak to her. In this book, at least, the voices do not play much of a part. But, I guess they become more important as the series progresses.
One thing I like about the book is that there is not much time wasted trying to explain Delaney’s obsession with trying to solve the murder. She just seems to be the super curious type of person who becomes doggedly obsessed when she is presented a puzzle to solve.
I have to say, this Cozy has a number of elements that I ordinarily don’t find super attractive:
- I am ordinarily not a great fan of paranormal elements (there are exceptions, of course — see my discussion of Aunt Dimity’s Death for one notable exception!)
- The way Delaney discovers the killer is, shall I say, a little short of being due to logical deductions following from the clues in the book.
- Delaney’s new life, including an instant set of friends, love interest, great job, etc., seems a bit much — quite a bit closer to fantasy than I normally go for.
Nevertheless, I really loved this book! I think I can forgive Paige Shelton for these elements that I don’t ordinarily enjoy, because I love the characters, I love the setting, and the writing is so good that the fantasy and paranormal aspects of the story are carried off so well. I was swept up in the fantasy so quickly that, for me, the pages just flew by. I’m a new Paige Shelton fan.
What about you? Did you enjoy The Cracked Spine? What did you like about it?
Also, before I forget: People may post spoilers in their comments, so if this is a series you think you might enjoy starting, don’t read the comments!