Catriona McPherson: Hop Scot

Last Ditch #6

This hilarious breath of fresh air from Catriona McPherson has rocketed on to my all time favorite Christmas mystery list.  This series centers on Scot Lexy Campbell, who has settled in the strange land of California, and lives in a motel surrounded by an array of interesting characters who often help her solve crimes.  Her “real” job is working as a life coach, but honestly, sleuthing takes front and center stage for her.

In this outing McPherson has flipped the script, and sent Lexy and her buddies home (Lexy’s home, anyway) to Scotland for Christmas.  While it was a trip planned for just her and her fiancée, their buddy Roger the doc says he needs to get out of town and buys them all swanky airplane tickets – how can they refuse?

On the way over, Lexy warns her friends that Scotland is rainy, cold, grey and full of hostility at every corner.  They ignore her.  When Lexy’s parents – who seem especially twinkly to Lexy – appear to pick them up at the airport, they are not taken to Lexy’s childhood home of Dundee, but to the tiny town of Yule (adorable as it sounds) where they have apparently bought a castle that functions as a B & B.  Lexy and her friends are the first guinea pig guests.

As her friends rhapsodize over the adorable town and the beautiful home, it’s not until Lexy meets the snarky barmaid at the local pub that she actually feels she’s back in Scotland.  When a skeleton is found in the cellar in a concealed room, all heck breaks loose, involving a baby owl, a broken tree branch, stolen holly boughs, and the various parts of the family who have just sold the place to Lexy’s parents.

This book was both charming and funny.  The mystery is clever but it’s only part of the fun of the story, which is just the right length, just the right number of characters, and just the right amount of sweetness and spice. In short, just right.  I enjoyed this read about as much as any book I’ve read in quite awhile, and that includes a re-read of a few Agatha Christie titles.  Happy Hogmanay! — Robin Agnew