Series Review: A.D. Scott’s The Highland Gazette

*Originally published in September 2014

FALL INTO READING (I)


It is finally my favourite season of the year – Autumn.  It is perfect for reading.  There are still some warmish afternoons to enjoy some reading on the deck with a nice cold drink. Or when it does get a bit chilly, or a rainy day, there is a warm blanket waiting with a steamy tea or coffee.  Let the reading begin.

28485307My recent goal has been catching up on or completing series I have already begun.  I start so many book one of a series but instead of moving forward I seem to start another book. I have been doing pretty good for the past few months.  I have even reread some books to aid in plan. I was looking at my local library’s website and browsed through the “on order” list and noticed the following cover.

I totally judged this book by it’s cover and went to see if this was part of a series or a standalone novel.  Of course it is book 5 of a series.  Then began the search of whether I can buy/borrow the other books.  Things worked out as I found all four novels in paperback at my local library 🙂 I have put a hold on The Low Road and started with the first book, A Small Death in the Great Glen.

7217221A SMALL DEATH IN THE GREAT GLEN
(The Highland Gazette: #1) Written by A.D. Scott

 2010; 416 pages (Atria Books)
Genre: mystery, historical, fiction

Rating: ★★★

 

When trying to figure out if Low Road was part of a series (and if yes what number) I found that there were two names for the series.  On A.D. Scott’s website she calls the series The Highland Gazette mysteries after the newspaper publication where five of the main characters work.  Most other book sites call this series Joanne Ross after one of the characters in the novel.  While we do get more details on Joanne in the first book, I am with Scott and like to refer to the series as The Highland Gazette mysteries.

Speaking of details….there are a LOT of descriptions, explanations and hearing every thought a character has in the first book, A Small Death in the Great Glen.  The novel takes place in the Highlands of Scotland in the 1950s and opens with a young boy’s body being found in the canal lock.  The young boy, Jamie was friends with Joanne Ross’ daughters, Annie and Wee Jean.  That is where the mystery sort of stops and the descriptions of each character in the novel begins.  While I am nosy and like the back story of characters I found it very tedious and almost got to the point where I stopped reading.  While the mystery runs through the novel it is not the focal point of the book.  The focal point is Joanne Ross – wife, mother and part-time typist at the Highland Gazette – and how she has to overcome her abusive husband, being shunned by her minister father, being a disappointment to her mother-in-law and being though of as thinking above her station by the rest of the town.  Her only real friends are Italian born immigrants, the Corelli family and the people she works with and for.  Then we meet Rob McLean, reporter and son of a barrister.  He is young, wild and ambitious.  Also on the paper is Don McLeod -the gruff editor and team leader- and then their is dependable Mrs. Smart who takes care of advertising and other tasks with Joanne.  Finally, rounding out the team is MacAllister, the boss and sort of love interest of Joanne.  Do not fear you will get every single detail of each of these characters and even some secondary and very minor players.  

So why did I continue to read this book? Well, there are two reasons why I had to keep trying with this dense novel.  One of the reasons was that I had read reviews on this book and many said it was dense but was worth it because the second book is amazing.  That intrigued me and once I got reading I wanted to see if that was true because it was taking me forever to get through the first one.  The second reason I pursued the novel was because of Mrs. Smart – who we don’t get much about so I wanted to see what was going on there and if Joanne would smarten up and kick her husband to the curb. 

The end result was yes they do remember they have to solve the murder and with all the information given about people, places and things I will not have to do research ever on 1950s Highlands.  The next book better be amazing or I am giving up!

FALL INTO READING (II)

The question on everyone’s mind from my last blog is…was book two (A Double Death on the Black Isle) worth the time and effort of reading book one (A Small Death in the Great Glen)?

10214614A DOUBLE DEATH ON THE BLACK ISLE

(The Highland Gazette: #2) Written by A.D. Scott

2011; 359 pages (Atria Books)

Genre: mystery, fiction, historical


Rating: ★★★1/2


Patricia, an old school friend of Joanne Ross calls her to her estate for her secret wedding to a fisherman.  Unfortunately, that is not the only drama for Black Isle.  On the same day two men from the same estate are found dead.  Accident or murder? Either way the Highland Gazette is on the case.  


I see it now!  This second book is a mystery, period.  While we still move with the characters and hear what they are think they is more “action” and suspense in this novel.  I enjoyed the hesitant banter between Joanne and MacAllister.  Don is just a great character that provides heart.  I applaud the realism of some of the shadier players in the book. The  novel moved at a quicker pace in that I was absorbed in the beginning and found it hard to not read more.   I read this one within a day or so.  I will read book three but if the series gets like book one I think I will stop with the series.   


WHO IS MRS. SMART?
I went straight into the third novel by A.D. Scott and knew this one would be the make or break book for the series.

13547077BENEATH THE ABBEY WALL
(The Highland Gazette: #3) Written by A.D. Scott

2012; 352 Pages (Atria Books)
Genre: historical, mystery, fiction

Rating: ★★★1/2

In Book one and two Mrs. Smart – the newspaper’s office manager – is a background character.  We do not find out much about her but she is reliable and holds the Highland Gazette team together.  The lack of detail of her life and her no nonsense attitude intrigued me and I was hoping in this book we would learn more.

It has been a few months since the last novel and in this book the Highland Gazette is thoroughly rocked.  First there is the death of Mrs. Smart (dang it! I am already attached) and then Don McLeod is charged for her murder.  The members of the Gazette are not sure how Don and Mrs. Smart are connected and why her murder has wrecked him so much.

The reading of Mrs. Smart’s will bring up more questions than helping the Gazette figure out who is Mrs. Smart’s killer.  As they dig deeper into the case the newspaper is falling apart.  The new Canadian stranger in town working as a subeditor has Joanne in a lovestruck tizzy and MacAllister is too distraught over Don and Mrs. Smart to notice.  Joanne also might have a way to get rid of Bill and save her new life.  Time is of the essence but secrets are hard to shake loose and more than Don has everything to lose.

I am in for book four and have book five on hold at the library. As I said I think I will continue with the series until the books get dense or dull. I am going straight into book four an am about 35% into the novel.

OH, HOW I HAVE TRIED JOANNE

Last night I caught up The Highland Gazette series and am patiently awaiting book five.

16130297NORTH SEA REQUIEM

(The Highland Gazette: #4)Written by A.D. Scott

 2013; 336 Pages (Atria Books)

genre: historical, fiction, mystery


Rating: ★★★


Once I finished the fourth book in the Highland Gazette mysteries series I knew this was not a “must read as soon as published and will still read if there is a horribly boring/badly written” on my vast to be read list.  If I noticed a book was coming out or was out I would definitely borrow from the library but it is not one I would buy or scour websites to find the release date.  Unfortunately, if there was another book like book one I would probably give up on the series.  While I am now invested in the characters there is no personal tie to them…hence my lower rating for the fourth novel.


I cannot no matter how much I try…and I have tried for three books now…to like Joanne Ross.  She is the main character and the books hinge on the readers feeling some kinship. Bad news first – I could not relate to her in anyway.  Joanne comes off abrasive and selfish in the wrong ways.  The Good news is that Don and MacAllister will have you routing for them and keep you reading.


In this novel a few months have passed and Joanne is closer to becoming a divorcee but cannot decide if she is really in love with MacAllister.  When a strange woman come to town looking for anyone who knew her deceased husband threatening anonymous letters start arriving at the Highland Gazette.  Local woman Nurse Urquart finds a boot with a severed limb and is later attacked with acid.  She too was sent threatening letters.  What does an American Jazz singer and widow have in common with a local nurse?  And who will be the next victim?

Verdict:

I will be reading book 5 – Low Road.

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