A murder at a Scottish castle reveals a murky past.
Kansas transplant Delaney Nichols and her protective landlord drive to Castle Doune outside Edinburgh to do a favor for her boss, Edwin MacAlister. Purveyor of rare books and manuscripts, Edwin owns The Cracked Spine bookstore in Edinburgh, and he’s asked Delaney to pick up a vintage comic book from a William Wallace re-enactor. They find the re-enactor in full costume and as dead as Wallace, with the comic book half-hidden on the castle roof. The dead man, Billy Armstrong, was the son of Gordon Armstrong, an old friend of Edwin’s, though the two men fell out 50 years ago and Gordon supposedly died in a recent fire. Almost immediately, Gordon shows up at the bookstore, very much alive and smelling of fish from the market where he works under an assumed name, accusing Edwin of having something to do with his son's death. Assisted by her boyfriend, Tom, Delaney returns to the castle to try to find a paper—a handwritten account of why Gordon has been in hiding—that was supposedly inside the book. Instead they turn up a dirk—a foot-long Scottish knife—and a business card printed with the name “Grizel Sheehy, Bagpipes,” that has Billy’s last name written on the back. Delaney’s fondness for Edwin leads her to lie to the police, nose her way into other people’s business, and walk into danger as she attempts to find out not only who killed Billy, but what really happened 50 years ago to come between Gordon, Edwin, and other members of a secret society. Is the real message to Edwin the dirk that Delaney found? How many times will the name William figure into past and present mysteries? Did Grizel kill Billy with her bagpipes? And will all the literary voices—quotations from fictional characters—help Delaney find the answers she seeks or get her killed?
This sequel to The Cracked Spine (2016) is rich in Scottish dialect and eccentric characters, including a well-meaning heroine who brings on most of her own troubles.