Delaney Nichols faces off against an elusive arsonist in the seventh Scottish Bookshop Mystery, The Burning Pages, from beloved author Paige Shelton….
One winter’s night, bookseller Delaney Nichols and her coworker Hamlet are invited to a Burns Night dinner, a traditional Scottish celebration of the poet Robert Burns. She’s perplexed by the invitation, but intrigued. The dinner takes place at Burns House itself, a tiny cottage not far from the Cracked Spine bookshop but well hidden. There, it becomes clear that Delaney and Hamlet were summoned in an attempt to make amends between Edwin, Delaney’s boss, and one of the other invitees, who suspected Edwin for burning down his own bookshop twenty years ago after a professional disagreement.
But after the dinner, there’s another fire. The Burns House itself is burned to the ground, and this time there’s a body among the ruins. When Hamlet is accused of the crime, Delaney rushes to prove his innocence, only to discover that he might actually have a plausible motive…
What’s it about (in a nutshell):
The Burning Pages by Paige Shelton is a complex cozy mystery working to solve two arsons and a murder, among other things. Set in a Scottish bookstore, I found great delight in the story’s homage to Robert Burns and his beautiful works.
What I Enjoyed:
Even though this is the seventh book in the series, I enjoyed that I had no trouble entering this world. Though I could see where my reading would have been easier in small parts with knowledge of the past 6 books, still I got over those little bumps and had an easy time with many smooth roads for most of the story.
I enjoyed the story’s fast pace, spurred on by twists, turns, and revelations. With a few different plot threads, the story quickly moves along. I found myself wholly enmeshed in each storyline and happily flipping through the pages rapidly. Even the first-person narration added to the fast pace, as the main character was not one to sit back on her laurels.
The homage to Robert Burns touched my literary heart and made me look back fondly at his various works that I studied and taught. He is one of my favorite poets, even though it can be hard to get through the Scottish dialect. I loved that the story brings up that he wrote Auld Lang Syne. I always had fun surprising students with that bit of information they could easily relate to.
The mystery’s solution surprised me, and I always love when I don’t figure it out ahead of time. There are plenty of real clues hidden in loads of red herrings and misdirections, so the conclusion, though bittersweet, did not come out of the left field but rather a carefully crafted chain of clues hidden artfully along the way.
What I Wish:
The only issue I had was that one of the characters spoke with a Scottish brogue that could be hard for me to understand. It did add authenticity to the setting, but it also created a distance between me and that character, who, though a side character, seemed like an important one in this series.
Delaney, the main character, and amateur detective is an American in Edinburgh working at The Crooked Spine bookstore and married Tom, a native of Scotland. I loved how her personal struggles came into play in the story. The fact that they came up at all made perfect sense since the story is told in the first person, and it helped to make her character fully fleshed out and intricately layered with struggles and flaws. She has a delightful voice that is fresh and invigorating.
Reminds Me Of:
It’s a true cozy and would have been a joy for even the masters of the genre, like Agatha Christie, to partake in. The bookstore is a setting that has been used many times in this genre. Still, the twist of having an American in a Scottish location came across as a fresh take that I enjoyed immensely.
To Read or Not to Read:
If you enjoy a good cozy and, especially if you are as enamored with the Scottish literary world as I am, The Burning Pages will delight you from start to finish.