From Appalachia to Scotland

Author Leah Weiss takes readers on a journey back to the 1970s to the fictional Baines Creek, a very remote mountain community in North Carolina, in her debut novel If the Creek Don’t Rise (2017).

In this tiny corner of Appalachia, you are going to get to know ten characters very well.  So well in fact, you may have a difficult time forgetting the ones you cheer on or those you love to hate.  Instead of laying out the story line, I am just going to list the ten residents of Baines Creek as you will get to know

Sadie Blue – 17 years old and quickly learning she should never have married so young. Her daddy’s spirit encourages her…” You got smarts you don’t even know bout yet.”  Sadie has a special place in her heart for Loretta Lynn and the music she sings.

Gladys Hicks – Sadie’s grandma.  Sees Sadie as weak, but also finds fault with most everyone, including God.  Gladys once had a hard man in her life named Walter.  But she did something about it.

Marris Jones – A neighbor of Gladys.  She stops by to help out or share something she has baked.  She knows how to maneuver around the many moods of Gladys.  Marris lets Sadie know she and Gladys are there to lend a hand if needed.

Eli Perkins – Called to preach at the age of nine, feels his work is never done.  Is not married and lives with his sister.  He is looking forward to the new teacher’s arrival.  On Mondays he spends the day walking the mountain and hollers checking on his members of his small congregation.

Prudence Perkins – A most bitter person.  Sees no good in anyone and is stingy.  Her brother feels Prudence “came into the world with a sour disposition that taints the sunniest of days.”  According to Prudence’s way of thinking, “Hell is being born into a family of preachers named Eli.”

Kate Shaw – The new teacher hired is seen as a stranger and citified, which she is.  Taught classics in private schools.  Dismissed from her previous job.  Finding an index card on a bulletin board might be called ‘serendipitous’.  Kate arrives at the mountain schoolhouse in a rain storm.

Tattler Swann – Scrapes out a living in the backwoods and does not see a need to attend school.  His best friend is Jerome Biddle who many see as an odd little man.  Tattler sees Jerome’s goodness and his tender soul.  He is the best kind of friend.

Birdie Rocas – Some of the locals call her a witch.  Others, a healer.  The most colorful and quirky character of the mountain community.  Birdie knows her plants and the healing power of each.  A hunter of ginseng which can be both profitable and dangerous.  Samuel goes everywhere with Birdie.

Billie Barnhill – Always had a soft spot for Sadie Blue since she was 8 years old.  She had nothing to do with him.  Bill still tags after Roy Tupkin and does his bidding just as he did as a young boy.  He has witnessed things that should have been punished by the law.

Roy Tupkin – One nasty fellow who took a liking to Sadie before she had the sense to know better.  Most people in Baines Creek know enough to stay out of Roy’s path, unless you happen to be new to the mountain.

If the Creek Don’t Rise is Sadie Blue’s story.  It starts and ends with her.  All the other characters fill in the back story of this emotional telling.  It can be touching at times and then turn heartbreaking just as quickly.

I found this book difficult to put down and read it straight through.  It was satisfying to learn what was going on in the character’s heads and the choices they made. And to my way of thinking, the ending was worth every moment spent with the residents of Baines Creek.

From atop a mountain in Appalachia that was settled by many of Scot-Irish take a trip across the sea to Scotland through the pages of Plaid and Plagiarism (2016) by Molly MacRae to the fictional city of Inversgail.  If you are a fan of curling up with a cozy, this first in a series may be one to give a try. Set in the Highlands of Scotland, along with all the assorted characters and the fun that help make this village an interesting place to visit from your favorite reading spot.

Four women decide to make what started out as a dream or a fantasy into reality.  They bought a bookshop called Yon Bonnie Books.  In the opening pages you will meet reference librarian Janet Marsh from Illinois along with social worker Christine Robertson who is a native of Scotland.  The two are headed to meet up with Jess Baillie, who has been handling the rental of Janet’s house.

Turns out Jess has cancelled all her appointments and no one knows where she has gone.  Janet and Christine head for Janet’s house to see if the renters have moved out.  Looking through the windows they discover the kitchen has been trashed with someone’s garbage.  They hear screaming which stops them in their tracks.  It was Jess.

After somewhat of a confusing explanation, Janet and Christine walk on to the bookstore.  There they meet up with Pamela and Kenneth Lawrie, former owners of the bookshop.  The Lawrie’s have planned a move to Portugal. Also, in the shop are the other two new owners, Tallie and Summer who the been learning the ropes for running the store.

Tallie, Janet’s daughter, who in her former life was a corporate attorney, is the one who found the notice that the shop was for sale.  Summer, had a journalistic background before making the move to Scotland.  Besides taking over the bookstore, the four ladies plan to open a tearoom called Cakes and Tales plus a B & B on the upper floor, to be known as Bedtime Tales.

Who arrives at the bookshop?  None other than Una Graham, advice columnist, the most unforgettable character in this cozy.  Most of what you learn about Una comes from all the other characters.  Una, aka Ug, calls herself an investigative reporter.  Others call her an agony aunt.

A murder occurs, the four new owners take it upon themselves to begin sleuthing on their own since the body was found in the metal garden shed behind Janet’s house.  They keep notes “in the cloud” of any information they uncover.   Janet’s neighbor is the likeable Norman Hobbs.  He is a policeman and this is his very first murder investigation. Of course, Norman is not thrilled with the idea of having civilians get in the middle of a murder investigation.

As if all that is not enough, Janet gets roped into judging for the local literacy festival.  It is not long before all four are part of Janet’s judging team.

With all that is going on several other characters appear throughout this cozy:  Rab and his dog, a woman referred to as Miss Tiggly-Wiggly, Christine’s parents, Maida, Ian Atkinson, and the list goes on and on.  Some are just for added local color, others play roles in the ladies’ lives, a few are part of the investigation.

This first of the Highland Bookshop Mystery series shows a lot of potential.  One of the two things that appeared on the downside for me was the large number of characters to sort out and remember.  It also was a slow getting into the story.  Part of that may have been due to introducing so many characters.  Neither one of those reasons would keep me from reading another in this series.

 

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