Wanted: A bold adventurer who wants to travel the world from a comfortable and safe spot behind a desk that has seen the likes of kings and queens, paupers and princes. A humble book and rare manuscript shop seeks a keenly intelligent investigator to assist us in our search for things thought lost, and in our quest to return lost items to their rightful owners.
Never an adventurer, no one was more surprised than Delaney Nichols when she packed her bags and moved halfway across the world to Edinburgh, Scotland to start a job at The Cracked Spine, a bookshop located in the heart of the city. Her new boss, Edwin MacAlister, has given her the opportunity of a lifetime, albeit a cryptic one, and Delaney can’t wait to take her spot behind the desk.
The Cracked Spine is filled with everything a book lover could want, each item as eclectic as the people who work there; the spirited and lovable Rosie, who always has tiny dog Hector in tow; Hamlet, a nineteen-year-old thespian with a colored past and bright future; and Edwin, who is just as enigmatic and mysterious as Delaney expected. An extra bonus is Tom the bartender from across the street, with his cobalt eyes, and a gentle brogue—and it doesn’t hurt that he looks awfully good in a kilt.
But before she can settle into her new life, a precious artifact goes missing, and Edwin’s sister is brutally murdered. Never did Delaney think that searching for things lost could mean a killer, but if she’s to keep her job, and protect her new friends, she’ll need to learn the truth behind this Scottish tragedy.
About the Author
PAIGE SHELTON had a nomadic childhood, as her father's job as a football coach took her family to seven different towns before she was even twelve years old. After college at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, she moved to Salt Lake City. She thought she'd only stay a couple years, but instead she fell in love with the mountains and a great guy who became her husband. After many decades in Utah, she and her family now live in Arizona. She writes the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series, which begins with The Cracked Spine.
Read an Excerpt
The Cracked Spine
By Paige Shelton
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Paige Shelton
All rights reserved.
"Oh, um," I said, mostly involuntarily as I lost my balance. I reached up for a bar to grab, but there wasn't one there. It was on the side panel instead, next to the door that opened in what seemed like the wrong direction. I settled myself on the seat and tried to put my feet in better spots so as to save my body from being propelled out of the cab. There were no seat belts in the backseat to hold me in place. My safety would depend upon luck and my personal sense of balance.
"Sorry 'boot that. Hold tight, there's 'nother sharp curve ahead. We'el be there shortly. Directly in Grassmarket, correct?" the cabbie said. It took me a second to translate the words. His accent was thick and I wasn't used to it yet. So far with the few Scottish people I'd spoken to — people at the airport and the cabdriver and a man on the plane whose voice and physical build had reminded me of Shrek — I found the syllable dance delightful, though some accents were more difficult to understand than others. I'd only been in Scotland for approximately one hour and forty-seven minutes though. Not quite enough time to judge if I would be able to communicate without asking everyone to slow down and repeat.
I'd been clutching the piece of paper since the plane's wheels touched down at the Edinburgh airport. I glanced at it again and repeated the addresses of both the bookshop and the Grassmarket Hotel, my home until I could find one of my own.
"And the shop's called The Cracked Spine?"
"I've ne'r heard o' it, though I live a good distance away, a long stroll on a sunny day, or a quick coach ride. You wilna see many of those; sunny days, ye ken. Oh, know — not ken. I apologize. 'Ken' is know."
"Thank you." I smiled into the rearview mirror.
"Of course, I'm nae much of a reader myself. The missus is. She'll read a book a day, a book an evening when she's working hard on the guesthouses. We hae two of them, guesthouses that is. She also spends a few hours a week at the neighborhood primary school, helping there with some of the wee-uns' reading skills. Aye, she loves her books. I tried tae buy her one of those flat computer contraptions tae read them on but she told me that she wasnae interested, that if she'd been meant tae read from those sorts of things, she'd at least have figured out how tae have an e-mail by now." He laughed.
I'd understood him much better that time. I couldn't be sure if it was because he was working to make me understand better, or if I was already getting the hang of it. I'd originally thought I'd be encountering bits and pieces of Gaelic with the English, but my research told me it would be more about something called "Scots" and that Scots was neither Gaelic nor English. Nae way, nae hou.
According to the card tucked into the small plastic folder around his neck, my cabdriver's name was Elias. In the picture on the card, he didn't wear a newsie cap, but today he wore one that was black and faded and matched the thin black sweater he also wore. He had very little hair, just gray puffs over his ears. I could see the puffs in both the picture and in person as they currently tufted out from under the sides of the cap. His face seemed swollen and his nose was too big, but neither unpleasantly so. I'd seen his blue eyes every now and then when he looked at me in the rearview mirror. They were clear, bright, and happy. I'd liked him immediately. I'd trusted those eyes enough to jump into his funny-looking cab that was more rounded and squat than the other cabs in the queue. I think I'd been searching for someone who seemed trustworthy, maybe someone who seemed a little familiar. The plane trip across half my own country and an enormous swath of ocean had given me time to become both excited and nervous. A big well of nervousness had built up, actually. Perhaps it had become bigger than that ocean. The cabbie had reminded me of my great-uncle Maury from Topeka, and he was a welcome sight.
I knew I should be tired, probably exhausted considering the distance and the time change, but along with the nervousness I was running on anxious anticipation. I hoped I wouldn't crash too hard when the most likely unavoidable crash came.
The cab was similar to a PT Cruiser, but stretched a little both sideways and upward, and slightly more snub-nosed than the sedan or vanlike cabs I'd seen. Both the black vehicle's front and back bumpers were dented. Magnetic signs had been crookedly stuck to the two front doors — the signs said: "McKenna Cab." There was no reason for me to feel confident about the McKenna Cab company except for the driver's friendly Great- Uncle-Maury-like eyes.
I was trying hard to be brave, be bold, not let anyone see that I was out of Kansas for the first time in my twenty-nine years of life. I was a grown-up and could handle anything. There are cities in Kansas. I'd lived in Wichita, for goodness' sake. There's traffic too. Perhaps there were no cities like Edinburgh and no traffic like what I was currently being swerved and jolted through — on the wrong side of the road, which was too confusing to contemplate at the moment — but I still wasn't going to let the differences make me reticent or timid; at least that was the plan.
The next jerky turn to the left gave me a perfect view of the castle on the hill. Of course, I'd done plenty of research about my new home, and Edinburgh Castle was at the top of my list of places to visit.
"There it is," I said to myself as I peered up and out of the windshield. Its backdrop was currently made up of light gray clouds, which I thought added the proper touch of menace to the otherwise majestic sight.
"Aye, that's oor castle. It's quite the place. Probably oor busiest spot for the tourists. Are ye planning on visiting it this trip?"
"Yes, but I'm not here on vacation. I'm here for a job. I have a work visa and everything."
"And ye say ye're from America?"
"Yes. I grew up on a farm outside of Kingman, Kansas, but I've been working in Wichita."
"Aye? Where's Kansas?"
"Oh. Smack-dab in the middle of the country. In fact, the contiguous geographic center of the country is close to Lebanon, Kansas."
"Well, it's verra exciting that ye're here. The missus and I will have you o'er for dinner. Ye'll be working at the bookshop?"
"Living close by? Surely not at the hotel?"
"I'll be searching for an apartment. Uh, a flat." Edwin had booked a room for me at the hotel, but I hoped to find a more permanent home soon. I wasn't supposed to report to work until tomorrow, but I couldn't wait that long. Edwin had said that the hotel and the bookshop were near each other. I decided I'd drop off my bags and go directly to the shop and wait until the weekend to tackle the task of finding a flat.
Elias scrunched up his nose and rubbed his finger under it. "Ye'll need some help, lass. When ye're ready I'll take ye around and show ye the good places tae live, and the places tae stay away from, if ye'd like."
"That would be great. Thank you," I said. I was sure it would take lots of people's help and advice to find the right place.
"It will be my pleasure." Elias glanced briefly in the mirror. "So, we're stopping at the hotel first?"
"Ah, such a fine American accent. The missus will be tickled tae meet ye. Ye ken, she used tae have the fiery red hair, just like yerself. Now, she's gray and beautiful, but her red hair was at one time as bright as yers."
"I look forward to meeting her too. I thought maybe I'd blend in a little more here in Scotland. There weren't many of us redheads in the area of Kansas I grew up in. Of course, in Wichita I wasn't quite so obvious, but my dad used to say he could always find the farm by looking for the flame of my hair along the horizon."
Elias smiled in the rearview mirror. "Och, lass, that's just one of those American things. There are nae more redheads here in Scotland than in, say, yer New York City. We dinnae make claim tae them all."
My nonsensical hopes of being mistaken for a redheaded Scottish princess of days gone by were suddenly dashed. I was surprised that even with all my research I'd missed that all redheads didn't somehow make claim to the Scottish landscape.
I'd been afflicted with the brightest tones: the fieriest red hair, the palest skin dotted with orange freckles, and light green eyes. I'd long ago become used to people's reactions when they first saw me back home in the small town close to my family's farm. There was usually a double take, sometimes a small gasp, and then a big forced smile to cover their shock at all my ... glow. However in Wichita and Scotland, it seemed, no one had so much as given me a second glance.
I smiled to myself at my animated Hollywood ideas and then sat back and glanced out the side window up at the castle on the hill again. It had looked huge in the pictures I'd seen, but it was even more impressive in person, its brownish stone walls shaping a fortress on a high authoritative ledge, a "volcanic crag" that had been there for centuries. I imagined decked-out royalty riding regally outfitted horses up to the top, though from my current vantage point I couldn't tell the route they'd take. The castle looked impenetrable, perched at a spot that seemed impossible to reach. I thought back to the ad I'd answered. It had mentioned a desk that had seen the likes of kings, queens, paupers, and princes. I wondered if that was literal or just figurative. I couldn't wait to explore every single inch of Edinburgh, maybe the entirety of Scotland if I could swing it, but the castle was definitely at the top of my list.
There were many things I'd have to get used to though. There was so much traffic. It all moved quickly and it seemed that the drivers didn't require space in between their vehicles and the other ones. And there was that other-side-of-the-road problem. More than once, I'd felt a panicked swell in my chest as I thought Elias was headed for sure disaster, when all he was doing was turning into the proper lane — on the left side of the road. I wondered how long it would take to rewire my brain for that one.
The cars weren't the only things that were close together. The buildings were also side by side with little or no space in between them. Some had small alleyways in between, but mostly the passing landscape was one tall, interesting, beautiful old building after another. It was difficult to digest many specifics, but the architecture ranged from medieval to ultramodern. As I angled myself against some more g-forces from the cab's quick swerve, I briefly glimpsed a neon sign attached to an older building, noting to myself that the neon modern and the old stone walls somehow didn't seem out of place. Nothing seemed out of place. There was a lot to take in, but it all seemed to be right where it belonged.
Edinburgh certainly wasn't Wichita: four words that simplified the sense of curious displacement I felt, but still a pretty accurate description. Though the displacement was somewhat uncomfortable, it wasn't unexpected.
"We're at Grassmarket," Elias said as he cranked the steering wheel quickly to the left and pulled to the side of a narrow road, the left side. More g-forces, but I could handle them.
It was a square. Well, more a rectangle shape, but done with the idea of a town square, with small businesses on the bottom level of the older buildings around the perimeter, and a paved central gathering area surrounded by cobblestoned roads. The center made an ideal spot for benches and the farmers' market tents that were currently taking up much of the long space.
"Just up two doors on oor left is yer bookshop, and down along the row, at that far corner, is yer hotel. On the other side of the hotel, there's a hill that will take ye up tae the Royal Mile. That road will take ye tae the castle. It's called Castle Wynd, technically, and it's a steep walk tae get there, but not a long one."
The Cracked Spine sat in the middle of a short side of the rectangle. It was the second of three shops that were distinctly old but very cute. The shop's front windows couldn't possibly allow any light inside, though. Books were stacked against the window, high enough to leave only a few inches of clear space at the top, and messy enough to make me want to march inside and straighten the rows and stacks, to save the ones with the unquestionably broken bindings. I would take on the job eventually, but I didn't think anyone would appreciate me marching in with that singular task in mind. One step at a time.
There was a furniture store on one side of the bookshop and a French bakery on the other side. The bakery and furniture store looked small, and so did the main part of The Cracked Spine, though I wondered if the bookshop also spilled over to the space next door to it, in between it and the pastry shop. There was a storefront there without a name and with blacked-out windows. I wasn't sure why I was inclined to think it was part of the bookshop, but it's what I sensed. The bakery window was topped with a sign that simply said, "Patisserie," and through its window that's what I saw: colorful pastries and shelves full of fruits, cakes, and cream- filled danishes. My sweet tooth made my mouth water. I'd probably visit the bakery even before the castle.
There were two old chairs sitting up on a ledge behind the furniture shop's window, and a sign above it that said: "Fraser's Gently Used Furniture and Reupholstering Services." The storefronts weren't wide, so the sign's words required two lines.
Atop the bookshop's front window was a red aluminum overhang with yellow letters that said, "The Cracked Spine," on one line and "Book Purveyors" underneath. I liked the phrasing of book purveyor.
The road was narrow and so was the sidewalk. We were close enough that if anyone happened to walk out of the bookshop and glance over, they'd see me, the nervous redhead from Kansas, in the back of the cab. I swallowed and told my rapidly beating heart to slow down.
And then I glanced at the long part of the street on the other side, and a warm sense of destiny washed over me, calming my nerves to something tolerable. A window that wasn't even quite as wide as the others was trimmed in green-painted, ornately carved wood. Written in black letters surrounded by more green, the sign on the window read: "Delaney's Wee Pub, the Smallest Pub in Scotland."
My name was Delaney, and no matter the fact that I wasn't sure I'd ever visit the adorable pub, just seeing my name there made me think I'd made the right choice in answering the ad, that I'd found another good omen.
With a quick scan around the market, I noticed more pubs, a restaurant or two, small groceries, and a couple of shops with names followed by "Take Away."
"Does take away mean you get food and take it out of there?" I asked Elias.
"Aye. That one up on the other corner, the place called Castle Rock, has some of my favorite fish and chips, tho' it's hard tae find bad fish and chips in Edinburra."
"Good to know. And what about buildings on top of the businesses? Are they flats?" Stretching high above the businesses, the building's tops were their oldest parts, made up of timeworn stone, skinny paned windows, and uneven rooftops that were peppered with spires and points and television antennae.
"Aye, most of them it looks like. Expensive, I'm sure."
I nodded. It would be wonderful to live this close to work, but though I was going to be paid well I didn't know the economy well enough yet to know what "expensive" meant.
I looked up toward the top of the high volcanic crag.
"I get to work next to the castle."
"Aye, lass," Elias said with a smile in the rearview mirror.
"And my hotel is just up there?" I nodded to our right.
"Aye, I can get ye right there." Elias put the stick shift into first.
"Actually, I have a favor, Elias. Would you mind dropping my bags off there for me? I don't think I can wait one more minute. I don't even want to take the time to check in. I want to see the bookshop." I opened my purse and found a twenty-pound and a ten-pound note. The meter said nineteen pounds, but the extra would be for the luggage drop.
"I'd be happy tae," Elias said. He took the money, wrinkled his nose at it, and gave me back the ten-pound note.
"Thank you," I said.
Excerpted from The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton. Copyright © 2016 Paige Shelton. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 stars for the premise, but that is all. There is no real cohesion to the story. The book starts, takes many disjointed paths, and sputters to a stop. It was boring and felt pointless.
I'm already a confirmed fan after reading The Cracked Spine. The characters and setting are richly developed with the personality, history, love, and touch of intuitive magic that I most enjoy in a cozy mystery.
I really loved this book. Delaney is a really great character. I can relate...LOVE books...the desriptions of Scotland make you want to go and visit. Book two here I come!
I couldn’t put it down! Scotland came to life in the details.
A new series to read! Well written, as I can translate the Scottish words to English!
Tacky and tasteless. Author Paige Shelton has never been to Scotland or Edinburgh. She probably has never met a Scot. It shows in her writing. No true Scot would allow a person as thoughtless as this person is to wallow in as she does. Paige Shelton owes the Scots an apology.
I hate to be the fly in the ointment, but this book was too slow moving, and too unbelievable to receive more than three stars. The charaacters are fairly cardboard and their actions defy logic and common sense.
This book has some love, sadness, caring, and mystery.
Enjoyed this book - the characters are all especially likeable. I also loved the setting of Edinburgh. I found it to be a fast and fun read and will look forward to reading other books in this series. I wish I could happen upon a job like this!!!
Agoo? st9ory in a wonderful place...it even has kilts
4.5 stars rounded up. I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I picked it up to read from my library a couple of months ago, but other books came in that had holds on them and I got several books for blog tours and such so it sat there for a bit. Then, I got approval to review the second book in the series, Of Books & Bagpipes, which comes out April 4th, so I knew I needed to get to this one. I was not disappointed in the least! This book came very close to getting 5 stars, but it just didn't have that extra pizzazz that I like to feel with a 5-star book. Even still, it was excellent and delightful! These characters are fun, loving, and down-to-earth. They're believable and yet well-developed and complex. I'm absolutely thrilled that for at least this first book, we didn't start off with a love triangle! Sometimes that gets really old in cozy mysteries. Here, our main character, Delaney is only dating one man (yay!). The plot line in this book moved along quite smoothly and quickly. Not so fast that I couldn't keep up, but there certainly weren't any slow parts in my opinion. I had no idea as far as who the villain was until the end when they are revealed. I was trying to put the clues together, but I just didn't have any idea, which I like! The descriptions of the settings were wonderful. This is probably one instance when I wouldn't mind more description instead of less. Scotland's at the top of my "travel to someday" list, so I greedily soak up any and all descriptions I read about Scotland, Edinburgh, and everything Scottish! If this book was set in any other locale, I might have felt the descriptions were a little too much, but being that it's Scotland, I'll take any and all descriptions given! The only thing I didn't really care for is that Delaney seems to be one of those heroines who just has to know it all and figure it all out, even if that means putting herself into harm's way far more often than she should. I liked that Elias was determined that she wouldn't go alone, but I kind of prefer a heroine who doesn't rush head-long into danger all the time. Other than that, this is a fantastic book and you should read it!
A good way to start a series set in Edinburgh, Scotland and a bookstore that is more than a bookstore. The secondary characters have my attention and I am looking forward to seeing Delaney's special skill put to use.
Very disappointing. The idea has great promise and I was hoping to find a new author to read, but no. Pages of tedious info dump (paaages of a taxi ride, paaages trying to describe a convoluted rabbit warren of a bookstore, nearly a page devoted to describing a Citroen car ...). And the author chose to write out all Scottish dialect ("weel, ... walk ye up tae yer hotel" ... which is one of the easier phrases to decipher) rather than just writing the King's English and trusting the reader would still know it was Scotland. Since the book takes place in Scotland, this is the dialog you're wading through - all the time. It was annoying and I gave up on the whole thing after 50 pages. Especially because there was still no sign of a plot by then.
I recently read To Helvetica and Back by Paige Shelton, and although it was written very well, I just couldn’t get into the characters. That was not a problem with The Cracked Spine. I loved all the characters, and am looking forward to getting to know them more in the future books of the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series. Delaney decides to move to Scotland and begins a new job in a bookstore, and while it’s not magical in a Warehouse 13 sense, I feel as if some supernatural elements are lurking around, and I can’t wait to see how they progress in upcoming books. Delaney does have a gift where once she reads a character’s words, she’ll hear them speak to her later on. I can see this coming in handy if she needs help solving future mysteries. Shelton did a wonderful job developing Delaney’s character as well as her three co-workers, the store dog (whom is adorable), and the love interest, a Scottish bar owner who is known to wear kilts. And the way she describes the town, makes me want to hop a plane and explore the village. The mystery was well written too. She put in enough red herrings, that I didn’t know who the killer was until they were revealed. I’m looking forward to more Scottish Bookshop mysteries, and to seeing if more supernatural elements make their way into the books.
An excellent start to a new series! Who doesn't love a bookstore and Scotland!?! Looking forward to the next!
Shelton has done a wonderful job with this new series. The descriptions of the area surrounding the bookshop are so vivid and Delaney's introduction to both the area and the residents very well done. The mystery wasn't easy to figure out at all and dovetailed into all sorts of the goings on at the bookshop. Can't wait for more!
What a combination--a transplanted American woman, a cryptic job advertisement, a intriguing used bookstore, delightful characters (cabbie and wife, fellow store workers, boss, hot bar owner), creepy/scary characters, a missing artifact, and a murder. Enough brogue to make you feel like you're there in Scotland without needing a translator. I look forward to further adventures.
The Cracked Spine is the first book in the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series. Paige Shelton has another wonderful series started with A Cracked Spine. Delaney Nichols has lost her job and she is open for an adventure at this time in her life. When she spots an advertisement for a bookstore in Edinburgh, Scotland, she feels this is the answer to her dreams and she soon finds herself in Edinburgh. Delany has the power to have books talk to her and knows she will fit in at the bookstore. Arriving in Edinburgh, she secures a taxi driven by Elias and he is well aware of the bookstore and promptly delivers her there. Elias and his wife will soon become good friends and help Delaney to settle into her life in Edinburgh. When she arrives, the owner of the bookstore is off to a meeting, but she meets with Rosie, a delightful older lady and Hamlet, a university student and part-time actor, her co-workers. Shortly after beginning her new job, the bookstore owner, Edwin MacAlister, informs the his employees of his sister's, Jenny, brutal murder. She has had a past history of drug abuse, she was thought to have kicked her drug habit. Edwin had been trying to get her involved in his business and had entrusted a very valuable first folio of Shakespeare’s. What with Delaney love for books and to help Edwin get closure with his sister's death, she sets off to do her own sleuthing to find Jenny's killer. She enlists Elias' help in her travels through Edinburgh. The book has a very interesting and enjoyable cast of characters and provides the reader with an interesting look at the Old Town of Edinburgh. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series to learn more about Edwin's business. A good deal of Edwin's time was spent going to what seemed to be rather “secret” meetings, but at the same time involved The Cracked Spine. Also looking forward to learning more about Rosie and Hamlet, too. Also will be waiting to see if a romantic interest will continue to develop between Delaney and Tom Flecher, the handsome kilt clad Scotsman who owns Delaney's Wee Pub. Looking forward to my next visit to The Cracked Spine and Old Edinburgh.
I received a free digital copy from Netgalley to review. I loved this story! I really liked the way the characters talked, and the Scottish wasn't so thick that it was hard to read. I liked all of the characters. I like the new family that Delaney became a part of with her move to Scotland and a new job. I really look forward to reading more about what she was hired to do and her interactions with all of her new friends.
A rare tome you’ll truly treasure! THE CRACKED SPINE is one of the most delightful mysteries I’ve read in 2015. I finished it on Dec. 31, and I can’t think of a better way to finish out the year. I was immediately enamored with the characters in this captivating tale. Protagonist, Delaney Nichols is one of my new cozy heroes. Along with her new “family” Edwin, Hamlet, Rosie, Tom, and more, I can’t remember tie better spent with fictional friends. Author Paige Shelton has brought to her new series the same excellent writing that has enchanted readers of her Farmers’ Market, and Southern Cooking School mysteries, the same masterful skill at creating a plot that all readers look for in a mystery, and the same sense of fun. Rather you’re already a fan or a new reader of author Shelton, you are in for a real page turning treat with THE CRACKED SPINE!