Of Books and Bagpipes by Paige Shelton is the 2nd book in the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series.
Last year, nationally bestselling author Paige Shelton debuted a new mystery series set in Scotland featuring Kansas-born Delaney Nichols. A recent transplant to the area, Delaney found employment at The Cracked Spine—a modest-yet-magical bookstore specializing in rare manuscripts and housing an eclectic assortment of historical artifacts—and also discovered a surprising knack for solving whodunits.
In Of Books and Bagpipes, Delaney embraces a new adventure of sorts when her boss, Edwin MacAlister, dispatches her to Castle Doune to retrieve an old comic book (Oor Wullie) from a man who pledges to be dressed as famed Scottish knight William Wallace. But when Delaney arrives, accompanied by her proudly protective landlord and frequent chauffeur, Elias, they stumble upon the reenactor’s dead body, cause unknown. Delaney quickly alerts the authorities but neglects to share with them the purpose of her visit, or the fact that she found Oor Wullie—which she instinctively secretes in her coat—hidden within a nook of the castle’s wall.
When Delaney returns to The Cracked Spine and informs Edwin of what transpired, his surprisingly emotional response leads her to believe that this acquisition mission wasn’t simply business as usual but rather something more personal. This suspicion is confirmed when the local police identify the body as Billy Armstrong (and blunt force trauma as the manner of death), and, subsequently, a steady stream of faces from Edwin’s past begin to appear, leaving the bookshop’s fiercely loyal staff to wonder just what kind of secrets their boss has been harboring.
Regardless of the murky circumstances that necessitate such a reemergence, one thing is evident: written words transcend time and place, leaving their indelible mark. As one character notes: “Books … They were such a big part of our lives. Oh, I suppose that’s a stupid thing to say. There’s not a life that isn’t somehow touched by books, is there?”
Delaney (possessor of internal “bookish voices”), having already honed her sleuthing skills and out of an affinity for Edwin, once again heeds the call of the amateur detective—despite the fact that doing so may have unintended consequences. Her cohorts in crime solving include the aforementioned Elias; her reformed playboy suitor, Tom; Tom’s father, Artair (a librarian); young, smitten Joshua (a museum worker); and even occasional adversary/ally Inspector Winters. The resulting interplay is engaging and ensures that Delaney never lacks resources. Their collaborative investigation spurs a collision of past and present, bringing with it a wave of threats and (mostly off the page) violence that upset an otherwise charmingly cozy existence.
Indeed, the author has created a world that’s as welcoming for its audience as it’s been for Delaney. Characters speak in enchanting brogue (and boast beguiling personality quirks), and descriptions of Edinburgh delight the mind’s eye. The Cracked Spine even has a resident terrier, Hector, to satisfy the furry friend quota.
Beyond such stylistic considerations, the underlying mystery is both compelling and complex, requiring smarts and savvy to reach a satisfying conclusion. But perhaps Of Books and Bagpipes’ truest appeal is that ardent readers will find themselves transported to a place where their bibliophilia isn’t only understood but unabashedly celebrated.
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John Valeri wrote the popular Hartford Books Examiner column for Examiner.com from 2009 – 2016. He can be found online at www.johnbvaleri.com and is featured in the Halloween-themed anthology Tricks and Treats, now available from Books & Boos Press.