Cozy in Scotland

The Cracked Spine: A Scottish Bookshop Mystery by Paige Shelton

Grade: B

I’ve been bingeing on books about bookshops. You wouldn’t think there would be that many, but there are. This particular one is a cozy mystery about a woman named Delaney, who gets laid off from her job at a museum in Wichita, and then answers a wanted ad looking for “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….” The only catch is that the job is in Edinburgh. Delaney is interested, though. After a telephone interview with the bookshop owner, a wealthy Scotsman named Edwin McAlister, she decides to take the job, and without much ado she moves herself to Scotland.

What Delaney does not mention to her new boss is that she has a special skill. It’s something like an eidetic memory that only works for dialogue from the books she has read. She hears the characters’ voices in her head, and she can even find books that have gotten lost on the shelves by following the sound of the characters talking. Intriguing.

She arrives in Scotland and everyone she meets, from the cab driver to her new coworkers, is extraordinarily nice and potentially interesting. Two characters have matching, partially-concealed tattoos that could have special meaning. Located at the back of the bookshop is a mysterious warehouse full of things that are probably antique and worth a bundle. Why else why would they be in a warehouse that is locked with a special blue key that must be turned three times to open the door? Her boss probably acquires such things when he’s at the secret auctions that only he and a very select group of rich people are invited to.

But Delaney’s special skill for hearing book characters disappears somewhere in the middle of the story without her ever having really used it, and no explanation is given for its disappearance. We never find out any more about the tattoos. She hardly goes into the warehouse, so we never find out what’s in it. She attends only one auction with her boss, and the only purpose it seems to serve is to introduce three characters who ultimately have little to do with the mystery (the murder of her boss’s sister).

So, the story had a lot of potential, but it didn’t live up to the potential. The author has apparently written five books for this series so far, and it’s possible that the sequels are better. I would consider reading another just to see, because cozy mysteries are such quick reading, but I would not go out of my way to find one.

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