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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Review - The Corpse Wore Tartan

 I am one of those people who actually attends Scottish Highland games and loves a rousing rendition of Scotland the Brave. I thought this cozy mystery would be fun.  I haven't read a Cat Who mystery with its rich Scottish flavor and small Moose County community in a long time, so I got this book to review from LibraryThing.  Grab some tartan plaid and let's go to the small town of Moosetookalook Maine for a formal Scottish dinner.

Author: Kaitlyn Dunnett

Copyright: Nov 2010 (Signet) 271 pgs

Series: 4th in Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Character:  Liss MacCrimmon, proprietor of a Scottish Emporium

Setting: Modern day, small town of Moosetookalook, Maine

Obtained Through: Library Thing for an honest review

The story starts with the preparations for the Scottish Heritage Appreciation Society's yearly Burns Night Supper (celebration of Scotland's beloved poet, Robert Burns).  During the dinner Phineas MacMillan's speech harshly insults several members.  By the time the dinner is over tempers are hot and a record breaking snow storm has downed trees and power lines.  Guests are stranded at The Spruces Inn.  With a hotel full of angry Scots, what could possibly go wrong?  Well...Phineas's twin brother, Phil is found in the basement with his throat slit.  Was it a case of mistaking one twin for another?

Liss was in attendance as a liaison between Scottish Heritage Appreciation Society and the hotel.  She became the gal Friday in the event planning as well as running the gift shop with merchandise from her Scottish Emporium, providing a good way to question guests.  Meanwhile, the body of Phil is being guarded in the frigid basement until state authorities can make it to the Inn to take over the investigation.  Liss is at odds with the local police woman Sherri Willett, who insists on keeping Liss out of "police business".  

Contemptuous Phineas shows no grief for his slain brother but thinks he needs protection.  One of Liss' suitors declares his love for her complicating her life just a little more.  Can Liss piece together the scant clues and figure out what happened before everybody busts loose to go home and the killer gets away with murder?

This was my first Liss MacCrimmon mystery.  I was anticipating a cross between "The Cat Who" for cozy setting and Agatha Christie's "Then There Were None" for the trapped in a hotel suspense.  I was mistaken in my preconception, it was neither.  The story seems a bit slow and plodding until about the last fifty pages.  The setting of an old stately hotel with half fully remodeled and half still being renovated is a good setting and could have been used to heighten the suspense more.

I didn't get much of a feel for Liss.  She remained stiff to me.  Her relationship with Dan, one of two beaus in her life, seemed odd to me.  He came across as overbearing and at times even bossy.  For instance when he instructs her to blow out all her candles so she doesn't fall asleep with them on.  So the romantic interest was a bust in-my-opinion.  I have to wonder if the situation of being cut off from the town and its people robbed the story of more developed characters and thus left it a bit un-cozy.  There were several missed opportunities to bring a few characters more to life.  The story was populated with mostly strangers and other than a few tidbits here and there none of the characters were developed much, with the exception of perhaps Sherri - the Police officer called over a claim of petty theft. 

Sherri had a past that came back at her during the murder investigation.  She is plagued with wanting to do everything correctly, not screw up the crime scene or evidence until the State police arrive, filled with self doubt and painfully aware of her troubled past by a hotel staff member.  Sherri came to the rescue in saving this story from being mediocre.

It isn't all bad.  It is a nice whodunit, without being convoluted.  The climax has its tense moments and the wrap up has an "ahhhhh" moment.  I would be willing to try another and see if the characters of the townspeople are better developed.  An overall pleasant mystery to while-away a cold day with some tea and scones.

To get you into a Scottish frame of mind, here is a Scottish Tatoo.  Please give it a try, especially if you have never really dipped your toe into the bagpipe and drum corps lake.  This is 2010's opening parade of massed pipe bands at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. This annual grand celebration invites the finest Drum and Pipe bands in the world.  Give it a try :-)


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Mystica said...

I liked the title!

Mark Baker said...

I read the first in the series and it left me kind of indifferent as well. I'm sorry to hear things haven't improved since I love the titles.

A.F. Heart said...

Yes, the titles are so creative and the story idea has potential. It just doesn't hit the "sweet spot" I guess. Mystica and Mark, thanks for the comments!

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