Review of “Beneath the Abbey Wall” by A.D. Scott

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.

Beneath the Abbey Wall

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.

The Scottish Travelling community arose sometime between 1500 and 1800 from Scottish workers who wandered the country taking seasonal farming jobs and providing goods and services, especially as tinsmiths and peddlers. In spite of their Scottish origins, they were and still are looked upon as outsiders. In 2011, The Church of Scotland made a public statement admitting its complicity in the persecution of Travellers and in forcibly removing children from Traveller families and sending them abroad. Church ministers were even present sometimes when youngsters were forcibly taken from their families and sent to Australia and Canada during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

In recent times, the Human Rights Act of 1998 and the Equality Act 2010 have recognized Travellers as an ethnic group which provides them with greater protection against discrimination. Nevertheless, many Travellers report continued biases affecting them in such areas as housing facilities, education, healthcare, and legislative representation.

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.

Rating: 3/5

Published by Atria, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2012

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4 Responses to Review of “Beneath the Abbey Wall” by A.D. Scott

  1. Mystica says:

    This is something I would like to get hold of. Sounds good.

  2. Kailana says:

    I really need to add more mystery series to my reading. There are just many that bloggers enjoy… I have no idea what to choose!

  3. stacybuckeye says:

    I think the first of this series is on my wish list. Off to check…

  4. sandynawrot says:

    I’m going to have to look into this series. I love books like this!

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