Book Review: The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton
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.
Delaney moves to Edinburgh, Scotland for a job at a bookshop. The shop is eclectic, as are the people who work there. Something is amiss though. It’s obvious that the staff of the Cracked Spine have a close relationship with one another and it’s also obvious that there is currently some strife among them. The strife revolves around the owner’s sister — who turns up dead soon after Delaney’s arrival and the object placed in her care, missing.
The premise was interesting, as were the characters, but the storyline needed much more attention. The mystery was disappointing and everything fell into place much too easily. Spoilers ahead.
We’ll start with the easiness because that’s what annoyed me most. Delaney sends an email in response to a Help Wanted Ad, receives a phone call minutes later, nails the conversation, and is immediately offered a job in Scotland. O-kay. Edwin MacAlister apparently isn’t concerned with checking references and Delaney’s apparently not concerned about verifying anything either because she accepts without really knowing what her responsibilities will be, or checking out the business ahead of time, but okay. Upon arrival in Edinburgh, her cabbie takes an immediate liking to her and offers to have her over for dinner with him and the missus. Less of a stretch — she’s young and on her own in a new country, so I can see an older person wanting to look out for her. But back to Edwin, her new employer — he immediately shares information with her that he dares not share with his other employees even though he’s known them for years and they are like family to him. What??? And the cabbie? Wouldn’t you know it, he and the missus just happen to have a lovely cottage available for rent and they have been holding it for just the right person. Really??? And the gorgeous pub owner who refuses to settle down gets all quivery at the sight of her??? And the guy who has all the answers, takes an immediate liking to her and decides to step in to save her when he wouldn’t save someone who had been his friend for years??? AARGH. It’s like reading someone’s secret fantasy about their life.
Onto to the mystery. I don’t mind not being able to figure out who did what, in fact, I’m always impressed when the clues are so subtle that I don’t recognize them as clues. Subtle or not though, clues need to be there if the mystery is fairly written. Aside of plenty of discussion of Jenny’s struggles with addictions and the shadiness of her apartment building, there was nothing that made me think “Of course! I see it now!”. It was more like, “Oh, okay.” It made sense — there just wasn’t anything a reader could grab onto ahead of time to lead them to the culprit.
Other complaints. Shelton tantalizes us with Delainey’s ability to communicate with books but never makes it believable. Shelton also tantalizes us with the possibility of ghostly encounters but aside of a quick “something”, she leaves this unexplored. And there’s all the comments about the unusualness of the bookshop’s interior vs exterior that go nowhere.