Cover image for Thistles and thieves
Thistles and thieves
First Pegasus books hardcover edition.
Physical Description:
279 pages ; 24 cm
When two well-liked brothers die suddenly--one in a bike accident that may not have been accidental, the other in his home among evidence of a break-in--it's up to the ladies of Yon Bonnie Books to discover the killer.

Inversgail. When Janet Marsh discovers the body of Dr. Malcolm Murray, it appears to have been an accident. A few days later a box of vintage first editions is left on the doorstep of Yon Bonnie Books with a note: "Please look after these books. Thank you." What exactly does "look after" mean? Are Janet and the crew free to sell them? And what are the odd notes penciled in the margins? They discover the books might have belonged to Malcolm Murray or his reclusive brother, Gerald. At Malcolm's house they find evidence of a burglary; at Gerald's house they find the door ajar-- and Gerald stabbed with a regimental dagger. -- adapted from jacket


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The latest entry in the charming Highland Bookshop mystery series finds the women of Yon Bonnie Books embroiled in the death of a local doctor, which sets off a chain of other curious--and deadly--events.

Out for a bicycle ride in the hills beyond Inversgail, Janet Marsh discovers the body of Dr. Malcolm Murray. The elderly Murray and his own bicycle went off the road and down a steep slope--he's sprawled in the burn at the bottom, his damaged bike in a patch of thistles on the bank. Janet calls the Police Scotland emergency number. Tire tracks at the side of the narrow road suggest a vehicle might have been involved. But if it was an accident, the driver hasn't come forward. And if it wasn't an accident. . . . But who would want the well-loved, retired doctor dead?

A few days after the death, a box of vintage first editions is left on the doorstep of Yon Bonnie Books with a note: "Please look after these books. Thank you." Janet and her crew at the shop are at first delighted, and then mystified--what exactly does "look after" mean? Are they free to sell them? And what are the odd notes penciled in the margins? With a little digging, the women decide the books might belong to Malcolm Murray or his reclusive brother, Gerald. When Janet and Christine call at Malcolm's house, they find his confused, angry sister and evidence of a burglary. When they go to Gerald's modest croft house, they find the door ajar and Gerald dead inside, stabbed with a regimental dagger.

While the police try to determine if the Murray brothers' deaths are connected and who's responsible, Janet and the bookshop owners try to find out how and why the box of books ended up on their doorstep. The police are interested in those questions, too, and they're more than a little suspicious. Are the Yon Bonnie women as good with burglar tools as they are with books--and at finding bodies?

Author Notes

Molly MacRae is an American author, based in Illinois. In the past, she was curator of the history museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee. She also managed of The Book Place, an independent bookstore in Tennessee.

She writes novels, short stories, nonfiction, and plays. Her series include Margaret and Bitsy, Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery, and the Highland Bookshop Mystery.

Her awards include the 2000 Sherwood Anderson Award for short fiction for More or Less, the 2001 Virginia Highlands Creative Writing Contest, first prize for novel, Wilder Rumors, the 2012 Suspense Magazine's Best of 2012 for Last Wool and Testament, and the 2013 Lovey Award for Best Paranormal for Last Wool and Testament, and the 2015 Lovey Award for Best Paranormal for Plagued by Quilt.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

At the start of MacRae's enjoyable third Highland Bookshop mystery (after 2018's Scones and Scoundrels), American expat Janet Marsh, one of the four proprietors of Yon Bonnie Books in Inversgail, Scotland, is riding her bicycle in the hills when she spots a body lying next to a damaged bicycle. Malcolm Murray, a retired doctor, appears to have had a fatal accident. Or was it foul play? A few days later, a box of first editions arrives mysteriously at Yon Bonnie with a note asking that the books be looked after. Janet and her colleagues have a hunch the books belonged to Malcolm or maybe his brother, Gerald. The stakes rise when Janet and company find Gerald stabbed to death in his cottage. The plot, which includes mistaken identities and numerous red herrings, unfolds slowly at first, but steadily gains momentum as it heads toward the satisfying ending. Well-drawn characters enhance the story line. Armchair travelers will have fun. Agent: Cynthia Manson, Cynthia Manson Literary. (Jan.)

Kirkus Review

A box full of old books may hold the secret to a mysterious death in a small Scottish town.American-born Janet Marsh and Scottish-born former social worker Christine Robertson have moved from Illinois to open a book shop, bakery, and BB in the lovely coastal town of Inversgail, where Janet had spent many vacations before her divorce. Joining them is Janet's daughter, Tallie, and Tallie's friend Summer Jacobs, whose purview is food and lodging. Janet, returning to biking after many years, is determined to finish the Haggis Half-Hundred. While she's out for a ride, she discovers a body in a stream. This is the third corpse she's discovered (Scones and Scoundrels, 2018, etc.), so she knows to call Constable Norman Hobbs to the scene. Her self-satisfied neighbor, bestselling author Ian Atkinson, identifies the dead man as Dr. Murray, a retired general practitioner whose sister, Florrie, lives with him and whose brother, Gerald, lives nearby. A visit to Florrie finds her vague and not very upset about her brother's demise. The Road Policing Unit in charge of the investigation is not at all interested in the amateur sleuths' input, and Hobbs, who does listen to their ideas, claims to know little of the investigation. Returning to Yon Bonnie Books after another bike ride, Janet finds a box at the front door with a note asking her to look after the books inside. Seeing that most of them are old and well-used, and suspecting that some may be valuable, Janet puzzles over who left them and wonders whether they could have belonged to Dr. Murray. When Janet and Christine visit Gerald Murray's home, their discovery of him dead in a pool of blood only encourages them to delve deeper into past and present motives for murder.This slow-paced look at a Scottish backwater is best for those who eschew action in favor of cerebration. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.