Another day, another *slightly* late ARC review. I read Paige Shelton’s newest installation of the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series, The Burning Pages, (book 7!) the minute I received the ARC… which was way too early. I ended up having to reread my favorite parts just for this review. I have had the pleasure of reviewing book 5 and book 6 of this series, and all I can say is, keep ’em coming!
From the Publisher:
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 I Loved:
- Robert Burns. Many of the Scottish Bookshop Mysteries focus on a specific time period, author, or book (previous themes included Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Loch Ness Monster, and Mary Queen of Scots) so I was waiting with baited breath for when Shelton would turn to Robert Burns as Scotland’s most famous poet. I was not disappointed. Centered around a murder at a Robert Burns fan club on Burns Night, I was immediately hooked into the story and Scotland’s rich literary tradition. My new life goal is to get to Scotland for a Burns Night celebration (who knows, maybe I will even survive).
- Hamlet’s History. For those of you who haven’t read this series yet, Hamlet is a quiet young man that works at the Cracked Spine book store with Delaney and Edwin. He was an orphan, and Edwin took Hamlet under his wing and Hamlet (as of this book) is in college and doing well. However, Hamlet’s origin story was always shrouded in mystery, and finally in The Burning Pages, we get to learn Hamlet’s story. And man, what a story. As one of my favorite characters in this series, it was delightful and bittersweet to see Hamlet’s origins and how he came to be on the streets. Looking forward to seeing the aftermath of the bombshells from this book.
What Didn’t Work as Well:
- Delaney’s Sleuthing. Delaney’s style of sleuthing has always been on the wrong side of bold for me, and Burning Pages was no exception. Delaney goes as far as to try and bully a seasoned barrister to confess to the crime (the barrister did not do it, by the way), and yells at the detective that she has a close relationship with for even thinking Hamlet could be a suspect. She is pushy, stubborn, and doesn’t have any sense of danger avoidance. Delaney is not here to make friends, and I am often confused how she keeps the ones she does have.
- The Pace. The middle of Burning Pages frankly dragged. The beginning was a whirlwind and so much fund, the end was twisting and suspenseful, but the middle got bogged down by almost too many red herrings and misdirections. I wish that it was interspersed with more intrigue.
- The (Lack of) Bookish Voices. Delaney’s bookish voices come and go in this series, and this installation was on the waning side of the voices. I wish that Shelton had stuck with consistently using the voices and making them a major plot point, but maybe they didn’t “test” well.
The Burning Pages is not the strongest installation in the Scottish Bookshop Mysteries, but it does add much needed background to one of the best characters. It is always a pleasure going back to scenes of beautiful Scotland and books galore, and will always be a favorite series of mine. Three and a half waves! This book came out last month, so grab your copy here! For those of you new to the series, pick up book one, The Cracked Spine here (on sale in paperback!)