Book Review: “The Stolen Letter,” by Paige Shelton

Happy hump day! I went back to cozy mysteries this week, specifically because I have had Paige Shelton’s newest Scottish Bookshop Mystery for ages and I needed to read it! The Stolen Letter breathed life back into this series, and I am so excited to review it!


From the Publisher:

Delaney Nichols is confident she’s doing what she loves—case in point, just one day after returning from her fabulous European honeymoon, she’s eager to get back to the Cracked Spine, the bookstore where she works. But as she disembarks her bus and hurries toward the shop she and another woman collide, sending a stack of books the woman is carrying to the ground.

Delaney’s hapless victim’s name is Mary, and the two women can’t help but notice that they bear an uncanny resemblance to one another. According to Mary, they both also look like the long-beheaded Mary Queen of Scots. Even stranger, Mary believes she is the reincarnation of the Scottish queen. But peculiar as Delaney’s doppelganger is, she doesn’t have time to dwell on it: on her arrival to the bookshop, she learns the Edinburgh city council wants to close the Cracked Spine, citing code violations, and she’s determined to stop them.

But when Mary’s husband dies in a car explosion—and Delaney learns he was the very member of city council who proposed that the city take a closer look at the bookshop’s construction—she starts to wonder if her meeting with Mary wasn’t an accident. Edinburgh has become as filled with intrigue and deception as any European court, and Delaney is determined to get to the bottom of this royal mystery.


What I Loved:

  • The Government Cover Up. Let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good government conundrum? Here, Delaney’s beloved bookstore The Cracked Spine is under threat of closure based on an inspection report of the building that no one has seen and cannot get a hold of, and the meeting to vote for the store’s closure was only heard of a week before the vote. What I loved about this little twist was how Kafkaesque it was (was anyone else scarred by The Trial?) and how it really set the stage for the murder. Who gets murdered over a bookstore closing? Well, there’s a mystery.
  • Mary, Queen of ScotsWho also doesn’t love a reincarnation? Mary of the 21st century is a fiery woman that could be the spitting image of Delaney in twenty years… and is convinced she was Mary Queen of Scots. And boy, is she delightful. Mary is an interesting character on her own, and I wish Shelton had more explored a potential family relation to Delaney, but I also love her conviction and practice of being the Queen, down to the castle and support group of other reincarnated people. I loved how she was described as the kind of friend who, once you are friends with her, you are friends with her whole circle, and I loved how she dug for the truth even after finding out about her husband.
  • The Mystery. A man named Henry dies in a car bomb in the middle of Edinburgh, and it turns out he is a city council member. He is well-liked but has made some questionable decisions on the council, and was on his way to go convince other members to change their mind on a seemingly tiny vote. There is a lot of potential suspects that Delaney and the gang uncover, but the clues seem to point to Mary, who the have all taken a fondness of. Was it an affair, like the great Mary Queen of Scots before her? I liked that they brought in a new detective that is not as sympathetic to the bookstore crowd, and I liked that Delaney got to work with Tom’s ex-girlfriend reporter Bridget, who actually seems pretty sharp. The mystery is not solved until the very end, which makes for a much more fun read.

What I Didn’t Like as Much:

  • EdwinEdwin, the mysterious and hard to read owner of the Cracked Spine, was largely absent in The Stolen Letter. We find out later where he was and what he was up to, but I feel like Edwin’s presence is less and less felt as the series progresses, which is a bummer. He is an interesting character with a rich backstory, and frankly as the business owner and Delaney’s boss, he should be around more.
  • The Bookish Voices. One of the main reasons I started this series (among so many others) was Delaney’s supernatural ability to “hear” the voices of book characters in her head that direct her actions. While the voices are mentioned in The Stolen Letter, they play less of a role than I would have liked. It is also worrisome to me that Delaney hasn’t told Tom her secret yet.

Conclusion:

Except for some extremely minor quibbles, The Stolen Letter was a wonderful installation to the Scottish Bookshop series. This series was starting to feel a little stale and insular, and I feel like the new characters of Mary and her entourage, combined with the government intrigue and historical background, really brought everything around. I can’t wait to read the next book. Five waves out of five!

If you have read the rest of the series and were also feeling slumped, I highly encourage you to buy this one. However, if you are new to the series, check out book 1, The Cracked Spinethis is definitely not a series to start halfway through.

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