Thistles and Thieves
The Highland Bookshop Mystery Series: Book 3
The latest entry in the charming Highland Bookshop mystery series finds the women of Yon Bonnie Books embroiled in the death of a local doctor, which sets off a chain of other curious—and deadly—events.
Out for a bicycle ride in the hills beyond Inversgail, Janet Marsh discovers the body of Dr. Malcolm Murray. The elderly Murray and his own bicycle went off the road and down a steep slope—he’s sprawled in the burn at the bottom, his damaged bike in a patch of thistles on the bank. Janet calls the Police Scotland emergency number. Tire tracks at the side of the narrow road suggest a vehicle might have been involved. But if it was an accident, the driver hasn’t come forward. And if it wasn’t an accident. . . . But who would want the well-loved, retired doctor dead?
A few days after the death, a box of vintage first editions is left on the doorstep of Yon Bonnie Books with a note: “Please look after these books. Thank you.” Janet and her crew at the shop are at first delighted, and then mystified—what exactly does “look after” mean? Are they free to sell them? And what are the odd notes penciled in the margins? With a little digging, the women decide the books might belong to Malcolm Murray or his reclusive brother, Gerald. When Janet and Christine call at Malcolm’s house, they find his confused, angry sister and evidence of a burglary. When they go to Gerald’s modest croft house, they find the door ajar and Gerald dead inside, stabbed with a regimental dagger.
While the police try to determine if the Murray brothers’ deaths are connected and who’s responsible, Janet and the bookshop owners try to find out how and why the box of books ended up on their doorstep. The police are interested in those questions, too, and they’re more than a little suspicious. Are the Yon Bonnie women as good with burglar tools as they are with books—and at finding bodies?
At the start of MacRae's enjoyable third Highland Bookshop mystery (after 2018's Scones and Scoundrels), American expat Janet Marsh, one of the four proprietors of Yon Bonnie Books in Inversgail, Scotland, is riding her bicycle in the hills when she spots a body lying next to a damaged bicycle. Malcolm Murray, a retired doctor, appears to have had a fatal accident. Or was it foul play? A few days later, a box of first editions arrives mysteriously at Yon Bonnie with a note asking that the books be looked after. Janet and her colleagues have a hunch the books belonged to Malcolm or maybe his brother, Gerald. The stakes rise when Janet and company find Gerald stabbed to death in his cottage. The plot, which includes mistaken identities and numerous red herrings, unfolds slowly at first, but steadily gains momentum as it heads toward the satisfying ending. Well-drawn characters enhance the story line. Armchair travelers will have fun.