Review: Scones and Scoundrels by Molly MacRae

Scones and Scoundrels by Molly MacRae is the second book in the Highland Bookshop Mystery series, which brings together a body outside a pub, a visiting author determined to find the killer, and a murderously good batch of scones.

Molly MacRae juggles several interconnected storylines in her second Highland Bookshop Mystery. Scones and Scoundrels opens with Janet Marsh and her business partners at Yon Bonnie Books discussing the demands of author Daphne Wood, who is scheduled to do a gala signing at their bookstore. Janet runs the bookstore with her daughter; the other partners manage the adjoining teashop and the second-floor bed and breakfast. What a coup for the Inversgail schools to secure a bestselling, modern-day Thoreau as their artist-in-residence for three months. Daphne Wood, formerly of Inversgail, Scotland, has been Canada’s environmental superstar for decades.

Rock stars with their demands for specifically colored M&Ms have nothing on Daphne Wood! Sharon Davis, the director of the Inversgail Library and Archives, shares Wood’s “lengthy and ludicrous list” with the owners of Yon Bonnie Books.

“Requirements for library and bookstore appearances: laptop with Microsoft Office and Photoshop software; access to a color printer with scanning, fax, and copier capabilities; photo paper for printer—glossy—two reams; ice cold Pepsi Free—one six-pack; hot tea—any variety, but no Earl Grey; Jaffa Cakes; McVities Chocolate Digestives—dark chocolate, not milk; quiet room away from the public with smoking permissible—if such is not available, though it is preferable, then a porch or similar fresh air structure, well sheltered from weather, is acceptable; tissues; three Pilot G-2 0.5 pens—black; one Pilot G-2 0.7 pen—blue; assistant with Posts-its ready and responsible for ascertaining proper spelling of names and inscriptions, opening books to title page for signing, keeping order among patrons waiting in line, popping Pepsi Free tops, pouring tea.”

Davis and the listening ladies are thunderstruck. They begin to have doubts about the wisdom of Wood’s impending visit, although they try not to let her excessive demands put a damper on their excitement. At least their town on Scotland’s west coast is idyllic. Janet tries to buck up Sharon.

Isn’t it a beautiful day? Better than any cliché we can dream up. Cloudless sky, waves gently lapping, Rab and Ranger ignoring the tourists but looking picturesque on the harbor wall.

At last, the eccentric writer arrives—a day early and with her dog in tow. Never mind the inconvenience for her hosts. Janet’s business partner, Christine Robertson, is miffed.

“And Daphne didn’t bother to mention she was already in the country, on the ground, and arriving any second.” Christine sipped her sherry, marveled, and then pronounced, “Daphne is definitely daftie.”

A distinct charm of Scones and Scoundrels is Molly MacRae’s familiarity with Scotland’s unique vocabulary. Did you know that there are over one hundred Scots words for rain? Janet and her daughter Tallie enjoy cataloging the linguistic eccentricities of their new home.

On the heels of Wood’s arrival, tragedy strikes. “A young man—an American who’d spent a night in the Bed and Breakfast above Yon Bonnie Books—is found dead outside a pub.” Wood is keen to play amateur detective, particularly since she knows the bookstore’s owners have been visited by murder before (Plaid and Plagiarism, Highland Bookstore Mystery #1). The owners are rather keen themselves—they like to think of themselves as helping the police.

“Eagle-eyed as we are. So,” Christine said, “I propose replacing ‘stick’ with ‘nudge.’ We nudge our noses in where they’re needed.”

“That does sound better,” Janet said. “And knowing us, we’ll continue doing it, if we think we can make a difference.”

“Whether our noses belong where they’re nudged, or not.”

They are certainly not about to let “sleeping bampots lie.” A bampot you say? Scots slang for “idiot; an objectionable and foolish person.” You’d be a bampot not to pour yourself a cup of tea, accompanied by a scone, and enjoy Molly MacRae’s cozy and clever mystery.


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Janet Webb aka @JanetETennessee has unpredictable opinions on books. Season ticket holder of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on the books of Helen MacInnes, Mary Stewart, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Anne Perry … I'm always looking for a great new mystery series.

Read all of Janet Webb's articles for Criminal Element!


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