by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of Molly MacRae’s latest mystery, and a fun interview with Molly. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Plaid and Plagiarism. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Plaid and Plagiarism: Highland Bookshop Mystery series by Molly MacRae
Review by Sandra Murphy
When four women decide to move to Scotland, it’s not as impulsive a move as it might sound. Janet and her husband Curtis, ex-husband and a rat, that is, owned a vacation cottage there. Janet made sure she got it in the divorce. The other women are Tallie, Janet’s daughter, Tallie’s BFF Summer, and Janet’s longtime friend, Christine, home to take care of aging and forgetful parents.
They have a solid business plan. They bought the locally owned bookstore and the original owners are staying on for a week or so to help them understand the business. Janet was a librarian so she has a working knowledge of the basics. Once the bookstore is running smoothly, they’ll open a tea shop next door. Janet’s cottage is rented, but the tenants are moving out. When that’s done, the apartments above the store will be a B&B. Three incomes streams and enough specialty work for each of them so there’s no stepping on one another’s toes.
Una is the local gossip columnist for the paper, although she fancies herself an investigative reporter. She interviews Janet and promises to come back to ask more questions and get photos. In the meantime, Janet wants to know why her tenants have asked for an extra few days in the cottage. Janet wants to get into her own home as soon as she can. When the four women decide to walk past the house, they discover the tenants have moved out. However, the kitchen is full of trash—the smelliest sort. Jesse, the real estate agent, is inside, frantically trying to clean the place. She blames Una for the mess, although Una’s motive is vague.
When Una’s body is found in Janet’s backyard shed, she hopes the rumors of murder won’t also kill their business before it even gets a good start. As far as suspects go, there are many. Una wasn’t a popular person. She found out bits and pieces about people and hoarded them for later use.
There’s another trash incident, but since it’s after Una’s death, she can’t be blamed for that one. There are letters, found when working on the tea shop, that point to grievances someone had. Presumably that’s Una, but who can say for sure? A lot of the incidents are trivial, but a couple are worth murdering for.
This is the first book in the Highland Bookshop Mystery series. The bookstore is certainly a place where you’d love to sit near the fire and read the afternoon away, especially once the tea shop is open and you could get scones and a hot drink. The women have their disagreements but solve them without drama. The police officer is a treat as is Rab, the handyman Janet seems to have hired without ever saying so or describing his duties. His dog Ranger is always at hand. This first book will leave readers wanting more—and soon!
Interview with Molly MacRae:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Molly: About thirty-five years. I started with short stories, because I love them, but also because with small children at home, my spare time was limited. I first sold a short story to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in 1989.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called and can you tell us a little about it?
Molly: My first novel was Wilder Rumors. It was published by Five Star/Cengage in 2007. It’s about Lewis Wilder, the new curator at a history museum in tiny Nolichucky, Tennessee, who finds himself under suspicion for a rash of burglaries. I was the curator of a history museum in tiny Jonesborough, Tennessee, but never under suspicion (that I know of).
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Molly: When I was the curator in Jonesborough, I edited a book of local history called Humor, Rumor, and Romance in Old Jonesborough. But for fiction it’s always been mystery.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Molly: Why did I choose a bookshop in the Scottish Highlands as the setting for Plaid and Plagiarism? For the same reason my main characters buy the shop and uproot their lives to move there and run it. It’s Scotland! The Highlands! A bookshop! Janet Marsh and her three business partners see the move as a great retirement/change of career scheme.
Janet, an American, is a retired librarian who loves everything about books. She and her family spent many summers in the Inversgail, Scotland, the town where the bookshop is located. Janet is joined in the scheme by her daughter (a burned-out lawyer), her daughter’s old college friend (a newspaperwoman who needs to reinvent herself in an age when print newspapers are disappearing) and Janet’s longtime friend Christine, a Scot who lived in the States for thirty years and plans to move home to Inversgail for the business and to care for her aging parents.
The setup is a little farfetched, but I researched the UK laws on Americans buying businesses and moving over there; I once managed a bookstore; and I lived in Scotland. So yeah, I think it could be done. Well, okay, probably only in my dreams, but that’s why I started the Highland Bookshop Mystery series. It’s a great way to dream and to have a little mystery fun, too.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Molly: Because I have deadlines I have schedule. It’s very exciting: Get up, write, go to work at the day job, write on my lunch hour, come home, make and eat supper, write, go to bed.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Molly: I start with an outline, but it’s organic. Sometimes it grows, sometimes it needs pruning and sometimes it wraps itself around my neck and tries to strangle me, but the outline doesn’t always win. I write notes on scraps of paper that I don’t discuss with the outline. Then I slip in changes to the storyline or tweak a character or two when the outline least expects it. Outlines and I have a love/hate affair, but by the time we’ve finished revising we’re usually on the same page.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Molly: Morning and early afternoon (without having to go to a day job).
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Molly: Not really. I’ve been very lucky.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Molly: When I sold my first story to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, we lived in the woods just outside the Cherokee National Forest, near Jonesborough. When I opened the letter, I whooped and ran through the woods to tell our nearest neighbor. I felt like I was flying and I managed not to fly into a tree or trip over any roots.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Molly: A woman at a conference asked me to sign a copy of Last Wool and Testament to her. She pointed to her name badge and I did a double take. Her name was Ardis, which is the name of one of the main recurring characters in that series. I’d never met a real Ardis before and not only did she share the character’s name, but she looked almost exactly the way I imagined my Ardis to look. I wanted to poke her to see if she was real.
KRL: How cool! Future writing goals?
Molly: More books in the Highland Bookshop mysteries, continue the Haunted Yarn Shop mysteries, write more short stories with Margaret & Bitsy, write a children’s mystery series and I have three other series in mind but I’m not going to talk about them yet.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Molly: Oh gosh, quite a few: Dr. Seuss, E.B. White, James Thurber, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Barbara Pym, Josephine Tey, P.G. Wodehouse, Louise Penny, Alexander McCall Smith, Lawrence Block, M.C. Beaton, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain. I’ll stop there.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Molly: In person (visiting an area, taking pictures, taking notes, talking to people), in books (reference books, photographic essays, newspapers, guide books, histories, phone books), online (blogs, vlogs, digitized manuscripts, authoritative websites). Here’s what might be a useful tip if you want a clear, concise introduction to a topic. Go to the children’s nonfiction section at your public library. A kids’ book is often a good jumping off place for research.
KRL: What do you read?
Molly: Mostly children’s books, because I’m in the children’s department at the public library, and I need to keep up on the new stuff. There are a lot of good kids’ mysteries coming out.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Molly: I haven’t had time to watch TV for a few years (see question 6 above) but I love Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman and we went on an enjoyable jag of Doctor Who a year or two ago.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Molly: Keep at it.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Molly: Thank you for everything you do to support mystery writers. Kings River Life is a class act.
KRL: Awe thanks! What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Molly: I’ve written short mystery stories in two other languages ? French and Scottish Gaelic. It wasn’t necessarily good French or Gaelic. Not really good stories, either, but entertaining.
KRL: Website, Facebook, Twitter?
To enter to win a copy of Plaid and Plagiarism, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “plaid,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 14, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:
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