Mystery author Molly MacRae, author of the award-winning Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, is debuting a new series--the Highland Bookshop Mysteries. Plaid and Plagiarism, the first book in the series is now available for pre-order and will be released the end of November. Learn more about Molly and her books at her website. She also blogs at Killer Characters and Amy Alessio's blog.
Baking My Way Through Books
I’ve been cooking for my family and cooking up stories for a long time. These days I do both fairly well, but the chops haven’t always been there (pun intended, although these days, chops are never there because I’ve been cooking vegetarian for about a dozen years).
My first bake set, which I received before I could read, came with a child-size rolling pin, little pie and cake tins and cookie sheets, and small boxes with mixes for making tiny desserts (that didn’t go far in a family of eight). This was pre-Easy Bake Oven days. My cakes, cookies, and pies were baked in miniature splendor in the middle of my mother’s grown-up oven.
When I learned to read and was given my first cookbook, I thought I had it made. Except, when I decided to make sugar cookies for a brother’s birthday, I discovered we had the wrong kind of flour in the house. The cookbook called for Gold Medal and we had Pillsbury. My college-age sister came to the rescue, explaining what brand names are. Applying that knowledge, when the recipe called for confectioner’s sugar, I proudly guessed that was another brand name and I could use granulated sugar. The resulting cookies were awful little lumps, and discouraging, but not for long. I went right back to my mixing bowl. And burned the next batch.
“Awful little lumps” might describe my early attempts at stories, too, and some of them probably should have been burned. But we learn by doing, don’t we? And by having relatives and friends who gamely taste what we’ve baked, and who try to swallow the preposterous stories we concoct. The good thing is that through all my experiments, I’ve only killed people in my stories and no one at all with my cooking.
I love putting food in my stories. It gives me a chance to trot out favorite recipes. Also, by showing how my characters interact with food, I have another way of showing what they’re like without giving a clothing, hairstyle, and personal philosophy tour of them. There’s talk of food or kitchens or visits to favorite restaurants and cafés in most of my stories and novels. (I’m very sorry that Mel’s on Main, in the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, doesn’t really exist, because I want to eat lunch there.)
But now, for the first time, my main characters don’t just visit their favorite establishment; they run it. In my new Highland Bookshop Mysteries, the titular bookshop has an adjoining teashop and a B&B upstairs. This arrangement is giving me a chance to think about and tinker with recipes for scones and shortbread and the like. How’s that working out? So far, yum! Here’s a recipe for Spicy Herb Cheese Bread for you to try. If you do, let me know what you think.
Spicy Cheese Bread
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
heaping 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
heaping 1/2 teaspoon oregano
1-1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup nonfat dry milk (⅓ cup dry milk powder dissolved in 1 cup water)
1/4 cup canola or olive oil
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan and set aside.
Mix flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, and Cheddar cheese together in a large bowl. Whisk in half-and-half cream, milk, and vegetable just until blended. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.
Plaid and Plagiarism
A murder in a garden turns the four new owners of Yon Bonnie Books into amateur detectives, in a captivating new cozy mystery novel from Molly MacRae.
Set in the weeks before the annual Inversgail Literature Festival in Scotland, Plaid and Plagiarism begins on a morning shortly after the four women take possession of their bookshop in the Highlands. Unfortunately, the move to Inversgail hasn’t gone as smoothly as they’d planned.
First, Janet Marsh is told she’ll have to wait before moving into her new home. Then she finds out the house has been vandalized. Again. The chief suspect? Una Graham, an advice columnist for the local paper—who’s trying to make a name for herself as an investigative reporter. When Janet and her business partners go looking for clues at the house, they find a body—it’s Una, in the garden shed, with a sickle in her neck. Janet never did like that garden shed.
Who wanted Una dead? After discovering a cache of nasty letters, Janet and her friends are beginning to wonder who didn’t, including Janet’s ex-husband. Surrounded by a cast of characters with whom readers will fall in love, the new owners of Yon Bonnie Books set out to solve Una’s murder so they can get back to business.
A delightful and deadly new novel about recognizing one’s strengths and weakness—while also trying to open a new book shop—Plaid and Plagiarism is the start of an entertaining new Scottish mystery series.