There are books that feed my soul with the joy of reading. The Last Ditch Mystery series by Catriona McPherson fits this bill completely. The books, starring Scottish emigrant Lexy Campbell, are funny, touching, suspenseful, and even educational (do you know how to get someone to reveal their weight and height without making them suspicious). Scot Mist is the fourth and latest Last Ditch Mystery, and it faces the Covid pandemic head on, with it’s setting of March 2020. That McPherson was able to maintain a humorous tone in this book speaks to her firm grasp of laughter being an essential part of dealing with life.
It’s March 2020 in the United States. News reports are full of a spreading virus called COVID-19. There’s a slow grasping realization that it is a world-wide pandemic, but no one imagines that it will last more than a few weeks or a couple of months. It’s expected that Governor Newsom will soon issue a shelter-in-place order for California residents. Lexy Campbell and her community of loveable misfits who live at the Last Ditch Motel have come up with a preemptive plan to avoid government interference in filling their empty motel rooms and the possibility of infected strangers in their midst. Operation Cocker (you had to be there and you will) even addresses the continued setup of the Skweeky-Kleen Laundry, run by Kathi.
Noleen, Kathi’s partner in the motel and in life, puts up a fence around the motel and a padlocked gate at its front (Lexy is touched that her houseboat by the motel is included in this protected area). For those who haven’t read the previous books, Kathi is a world class germaphobe, so one of the aims of Operation Cocker is to allow Kathi to maintain her sanity, which ensures everyone else's sanity, too. The other full-time oddballs, er, residents who will benefit from this protected environment are Todd, who is a doctor on leave because of his bug phobia and who is married to Dr. Roger, who is currently working in the hospital and sheltering with another doctor. Also already in place are Della, her son Diego, and her new young husband Devin. Joining the regulars for the shelter-in-place Last Ditch style are two spouses who are in abusive relationships with their partners and need safety as well as virus protection, Todd’s mother Barb, the wife and kids of the doctor with whom Roger is staying, an older couple named Maria and Jose, and Lexy’s fairly new boyfriend Taylor and his mother. Oh, and the last person filling a room is Sergeant Molly Ransome, Cuendo Police Department and head nemesis of Lexy.
So, the plans to fill up the motel with pre-selected occupants is a success. Now, they need to get used to communal meals for seventeen people and shoring up supplies, such as the infamous toilet paper. And, there is adjusting to the Scottish terms for things that pop up for the newcomers, something I take great delight in. However, before you can say Bob’s your uncle, trouble creeps in. The first morning after the move-in, a message written on torn sheets is strung across the fence with the menacing words, “Come home, bitch.” Meera and Arif, the two people who had left abusive spouses think the message could be from either one of their spouses. Lexy, who never met an abuse or an injustice she didn’t want to address, makes plans to scare the abusive spouses off, all under the cover of darkness and away from the prying eyes of their resident cop.
Well, what goes up must come down, and so it goes with Operation Cocker. The happy, communal, Kumbaya existence envisioned by its creators takes a Lexy Campbell turn of events shift. Another threatening banner, this time written in blood, the discovery of a bloody room, and a missing person gives Sgt. Molly the stage time to play her favorite game, “Let Heads Roll.” She relentlessly grills the motley crew of the Last Ditch Motel, as they are either suspects or invaluable witnesses. There's no alternative for the Last Ditch Detectives but to do but start their own investigation. With Lexy, Todd, and Kathi on the case, it can be a right ****fest. But, though their method may be madness, this trio is relentless, and readers are treated to another Toad’s Wild Ride of investigative pursuits.
Readers will laugh at the quirky characters and enjoy the suspense of the murder investigation, but the cleverness of Catriona McPherson takes us to another level. She does it so smoothly, integrating it into the story line and characters without any didactic posturing. McPherson shows readers what is important in living their best life through the stories in this microcosm of the world called Last Ditch Motel. She humorously infuses a message of acceptance of our melting pot world in the scenes, such as a certain swimming pool reveal. In fact, these stories show that it is not just accepting our differences,it is embracing them that makes everyone's life better.
the expression “I’d follow you anywhere,” and, no doubt, you’ve heard it
attached to authors and their writing.
Well, I do follow Catriona McPherson anywhere and everywhere, as she is
one of the most versatile talents writing today. Those readers who are already fans of this
author are familiar with her other award winning series, including the wonderfully Scottish Dandy Gilver series (#15, The Mirror Dance came out in December), the spine-tingling stand-alones (In Place of Fear is out this spring), and now the funny bone tickling Lexy Campbell/Last Ditch
series. Catriona McPherson truly does it all, and she
does it all splendidly. Scot Mist is already on my Favorite Reads for 2022, and I'm betting it will be on yours, too.
Thanks to NetGalley, the author, and Severn House Publishing for an advanced copy of Scot Mist.