This is the third book in a somewhat cozy murder mystery series set in the 1950’s in the Scottish Highlands. The recurring characters operate a small newspaper, the Highland Gazette. Sometimes, in order to get the bottom of a story, they end up investigating and solving a crime as well.
In this book, one of their own, the the Gazette’s office manager, Joyce Smart, is found murdered. The paper’s deputy editor, Don McLeod, is the chief suspect. The other members of the staff can’t believe Don is guilty, but Joyce’s husband is an influential member of their small community, and he insists that McLeod is culpable, particularly since McLeod is named in Joyce’s will.
The Gazette’s editor, John McAllister, joins forces with charming Rob McLean, a young reporter and the son of the local solicitor who will be representing McLeod, to get to the bottom of what happened. They are assisted further by locals (also from earlier books), Jimmy McPhee and his formidable mother Jenny. Jenny, to the shock of most, was also named in the will. Jenny and Jimmy are Travelers, or Tinkers, as they are sometimes called, a group of itinerant people mostly living in the Northwest Highlands who are looked upon as Gypsies and despised for it. In this book, as in her previous ones, the author takes care to try to expose historic prejudice against this group and to redress it.
Joyce Smart, the murder victim, had tried to help the Tinkers by providing them with permanent addresses, in order to prevent the state from taking away their children (see the blue box, above).
Meanwhile, the paper is floundering with two of its already small staff gone, and McAllister agrees to take on Neil Stewart, a handsome but mysterious newcomer from Canada who has come to town to do research on his ancestors. Unfortunately for McAllister, who has an eye for his reporter Joanne Ross, Neil sweeps Joanne off her feet. And if that isn’t enough to depress him, his friend Don McLeod is in danger of killing himself if he goes to prison, which he will most certainly do if his friends can’t find a way to exonerate him.
Evaluation: This book dragged a bit more than its predecessors for me, but it has a bang-up twist at the end, and the author’s ability to invoke the Scottish countryside is excellent.
Published by Atria, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2012