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Being part Scottish on Dad's side of the family I am on the lookout for mysteries that have a Scottish bent to them. Recently I found two new ones and reread an old favorite. In this diary we will look at The Scottish Play Murder by Anne Rutherford, Bagpipes, Brides, and Homicides by Kaitlyn Dunnett, and Highland Laddie Gone by Sharyn McCrumb.

The Scottish Play Murder (A Restoration Mystery) by Anne Rutherford caught my eye a couple of months ago. I love well written historical mysteries such as Ellis Peters Brother Cadfael series.

Suzanne Thornton is an ex prostitute who now runs a  theater. A charming Scotsman named Diarmid Ramsey shows up and wants to join the group and play Macbeth. As a theater major I am well aware of the "curse" that surrounds the play. It is considered bad luck to even mention the name of the play.

I had real problems with this book. I never got a feel for the era the book is set in. It felt more like a cheap backdrop then that you were in the Restoration period itself. The characters also seemed superficial. The heroine owning a theater in that era and walking around in men's clothes just doesn't ring true. There are too many cliché characters in the book. How many times have we seen the nobleman who fathers a child and disappears and a prostitute with a heart of gold who carries on bravely.

The whole premise of the book where a stranger would just walk in and suddenly is a star of a play he wants to perform is too contrived for my taste. The author has a tendency to throw something out as a clue and then clear it up a few pages later. Often times the dialog comes out more modern then it should.

I guess I was spoiled by Ellis Peters who made the whole era that Brother Cadfael is set in come alive. It was a major character in the stories. The Restoration era should have been of major interest not a throw-away reference. The author really needs to plot out the mysteries better. Too much suddenly appears without rhyme or reason. The lapses in logic of having a too modern heroine in that era without really explaining how it could even be possible grates.

Bagpipes, Brides, and Homicides by Kaitlyn Dunnett was a rather fun book. How can you not like a book that takes place is Moosetookalook, Maine? Liss MacCrimmon is the owner of a Scottish Emporium. She is also getting ready to get married. Her dotty mother is trying to plan a "traditional" Scottish wedding while Liss just wants a simple normal ceremony. The wedding is supposed to take place during the local highland games.

Professor Palsgrave has a nutty theory on the founding of America by a Scotsman. He also has a wandering eye and a penchant for seducing students. One of his earlier conquests was Liss mother. When the Professor ends up bludgeoned to death the main suspect is her Dad who was heard threatening the Professor to stay away from his wife.

Liss has to try and keep her wedding the way she wants, fend off suggestions from her Mom, and clear her Dad of murder all before the wedding can take place.

I enjoyed this book immensely and will probably get more of the series. I though Liss was a charming and fun character.  I liked the way the town and the town's people were portrayed. The writer shows a respect for that area of the United States.

Highland Laddie Gone by Sharyn McCrumb is one of my favorite mysteries of all time. I just love this book.

Elizabeth MacPherson is this year's Maid of the Cat for this years Highland Games in West Virginia. She gets to walk around with a bobcat on a leash. If you have ever been to a Highland Games you will recognize the setting and people that populate this book. This book has it all. You get Colin Campbell the curmudgeon and anti-feminist.  Not surprisingly he ends up dead. You have Jerry Buchanan who would love to have a prettier tartan. I can sympathize with that since the Wilson tartan looks like whoever designed that had been drinking too much of the national product of Scotland at the time. You have Walter Hutcheson who is having a midlife crisis and has gotten rid of his sensible wife and married a younger woman. You have Lachlan Forsyth a professional Scot who runs a booth where you can find Scottish kitsch.  Cameron Dawson is actually from Scotland and a marine biologist. He finds the whole Highland Games puzzling. One of my favorite characters is Geoffrey, Elizabeth's cousin, who is into theater and along to try and get some ideas for a production of Brigadoon.

The book is an affectionate look at how Scottish Americans try to out Scot the Scots. I am a big fan of the Highland Games and have always enjoyed them. You can tell Sharyn McCrumb has a great affection for them.

One of the things I love the most about this book is the humor. Geoffrey is an over-the-top theater person. I majored in theater and know the type very well.  Elizabeth is the American who loves all things Scottish even if she doesn't really know the real thing from the idealized. Cameron is just down to earth. The book sends up James Bond, professional Scots, Civil War reenactments, and much more. It is just plain fun and a book I've read over and over again.

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Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Mon Nov 18, 2013 at 05:02 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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