If ever there was a mystery penned for bibliophiles, this one has to be it! With myriad book references, and the atmospheric settings of a) a house built next to a graveyard, and, b) an unorganized used bookshop – it is a book-loving mystery lover’s idea of a wonderful read.
We meet Jude when she is travelling from London to Wigtown, Galloway. She is running away from her life. When she arrives (with only the clothes on her back), she goes to Lowland Glen, the bookshop she remembers from an earlier holiday visit with her husband, Max. The shop’s owner is Lowell Glen, an unkempt man in his early sixties. He is a ‘bibliophile’ through and through. He says that his favorite sound is the ‘gasp’ a book lover makes when they sight a treasure. He describes book collecting as a ‘gentle delight’ and ‘years of small adventures’. Jude too is afflicted with bibliophilia. She thought travelling bookless was a kind of purgatory. In her former life she was a librarian cataloger. Her love of order is appalled at the disarray of the bookshop, but part of her is enamored by its vellichor.
When Lowell enlists her aid to enter his eighty thousand or so books into a computer database, she accepts with alacrity. He is a refuge. He invites her to stay at his house, where once again she is appalled by its muck, murk, and disorder.
The reader is uncertain just what it is that Jude is running away from ; but it is something bad enough that she doesn’t reveal her surname to anyone in Wigtown and she destroys her cellphone when she arrives so as not to be traceable… We learn she was married, has no children, and that her parents have just died.
When Lowell is tracked down by a daughter he didn’t know about, another woman moves in to Lowell’s life and his house. Heavily pregnant and only a teenager, Eddy seems to be hiding something. Jude is suspicious of her motives and fears that Lowell is being taken for a mug. Jude moves out of the house when Lowell offers her Kirk Cottage (which he had inherited but never used). Jude thinks of this cottage next to the graveyard as a sanctuary from the world. She was not frightened to be there alone as the dead won’t hurt you, only the living have the capacity to do that…
Jude is delighted by the cottage and is interested to learn that many of the former owner’s books are now at Lowland Glen. She discovers handwritten notes within his books that suggest a mystery – which she pursues to her peril.
Although the cover is splendid and goes along with the story – a cottage bordering a graveyard – I don’t think it conveys the correct mood. It seems to suggest a book of horror or the supernatural and that is simply not the case.
This is a novel of past crimes, family secrets, the love of books, love, loss, and the appeal of ‘starting over’.
Part of the reason I enjoyed this novel was no doubt due to the fact that I have only very recently retired from my job as a library cataloger. That being said, it is an entertaining and atmospheric mystery story that is fun to read.
This is the third novel by this author that I have read. I have enjoyed them all and will watch for further titles by her. I enjoy her writing style and she never disappoints. I was first introduced to Catriona McPherson when I read and reviewed “The day she died“. A five star title which I heartily recommend.
Catriona McPherson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is the author of the Dandy Gilver historical mystery series, which was nominated for a Macavity Award in 2012. She moved to California in 2010 but she returns to Scotland every year for a wee visit to quell her homesickness.
She is now a full time writer. When not writing, she is reading, gardening, cooking, baking, cycling , and running.