Wednesday, December 21, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Plaid and Plagiarism by Molly MacRae

I received this book free from Netgalley. This did not influence my review.

Plaid and Plagiarism by Molly MacRae is a newly released first book in a cozy mystery series that adds in an additional enticement– the detectives are book shop owners. I decided to give it a try even though it’s a contemporary novel and I tend to prefer cozy mysteries that are historical.

Four women (Janet, her best friend Christine, and their two adult daughters, Tallie and Summer) have decided to move to the tourist town of Inversgail in the Scottish Highlands and take over a bookstore. (The owners are selling.) The plan is to add on a tea shop and bed-and-breakfast. The four women have talents and backgrounds that should help ensure success (a librarian, social worker, lawyer and investigative journalist, respectively.) Christine is from Inversgail and wants to move back to care for her aging parents. Janet, who is the main protagonist, used to vacation in the town with her husband, from whom she is recently divorced after discovering he cheated on her.

The four arrive in town and begin to get organized in advance of the big annual literary festival that should help drive traffic to their store. Right away, they are visited by Una Graham, who writes an advice column for the local paper and who has also taken up investigative reporting. Assigned to do a story on the new bookshop owners, Una is looking for controversy, not a puff piece. If she can’t find controversy she has no problem inventing it.

The women are put off by Una, but continue on with their business, which includes meeting some of the other locals. Then they head off to Janet’s home. (Purchased long ago by Janet and her husband to be a retirement home, the house is now being rented. At least, it was being rented. The lease was not renewed and the renters are, supposedly, dragging their feet about leaving.) They arrive to find the kitchen full of garbage. That’s a lot better than what they find when they try again a few days later. Now, they discover Una Graham brutally murdered in the garden shed.

The local policeman is called in, who also alerts the special crimes division. The professionals begin investigating, but that isn’t enough for the bookstore owners who have a vested interest in seeing the crime solved. They begin collecting clues on their own.

The book is set in a lovely location and the second-chance scheme of the women to run their own business in town is interesting. The mystery holds together in the end. However, the story is slow paced. The women suspect whatever townspeople they come into contact with. The action consists of the women questioning townspeople then listing everything they know and all their new questions on a spreadsheet. The village policeman is sweetly patient with them, but their prying into a murder investigation–and being allowed to interfere– does seem a bit farfetched. Some of the plot elements also seem unlikely, and appear wedged in to make other pieces of the plot work. While it’s a short read and nice to envision a life of book-selling and scone-eating in Inversgail, I wasn’t really engaged in the characters as mystery solvers.