A Wicked Welcome Molly MacRae **plus giveaway**

by Julie, enjoying a lovely December day

I am so happy to welcome Molly MacRae back to the blog! I’m so happy that we are able to help her celebrate the release of Heather and Homicide!

Don’t you Love a Good Coincidence – or –
Six Degrees of Dorothy Dunnett

I do love a good coincidence, don’t you? While I was doing research for Heather and Homicide, a nice string of them paid off in a peculiar treasure that’s now sitting on my bookshelf. Here’s the story.

The setup: One of my favorite writers is the late Dorothy Dunnett. Dunnett, a Scottish novelist best known for her historical fiction, also wrote a wonderful mystery series centering on Johnson Johnson, a portrait painter and spy, who travels the world on his yacht, the Dolly. An interesting feature of the series is that Johnson Johnson isn’t the main character. Each of the books has a different strong female lead.

The research: Heather and Homicide is about the suspicious coincidences that occur when a true-crime writer arrives in the west coast town of Inversgail, Scotland. One of them involves a kayak, so I read a lot about kayaks and kayak trips along the Highland coast and came across a book called The Canoe Boys: The First Epic Scottish Sea Journey by Kayak. I bought a copy. It’s a 2007 reprint of the 1995 book, which was a new incarnation of It’s Too Late in the Year. That book, out in 1969, was a new incarnation of a 1950 book, Quest by Canoe, about a trip two young men made up the west coast of Scotland, from Bowling to Kyle of Lochalsh, in 1934. Most of the stuff I read about kayaks doesn’t show up in Heather and Homicide, but that 1934 canoe trip does.

The string of coincidences: My family comes from the area around Kyle of Lochalsh. The 1950 book and its subsequent incarnations was written by Alastair Dunnett, one of the canoe boys. Dunnett was a longtime editor of the daily newspaper The Scotsman, which arrives in my inbox every morning. He was Dorothy Dunnett’s husband.

The treasure: My sister, after hearing that string of coincidences, said, “Oh, but there’s more,” and she brought me a book wrapped in tissue paper. It didn’t need to be wrapped in tissue paper, but that made it more fun. Her son had found it at a library book sale and thought she might like it. She gave it to me, knowing I would love it. It’s a copy of the New Testament, in Scottish Gaelic, given to Alastair Dunnett and signed by him in 1978. To round off the coincidences, 1978 is the year my husband and I got married.

Coincidence in real life brings a spark of magic with it.

If you’re writing mysteries, though, you need to be careful how and where you use coincidence. Letting your characters rely on one or more to solve the crime is a bit of a cheat. That’s me being polite. It really is a cheat. Protagonists should use their own skills and wits to save themselves and the day.

For the writers among you, bestselling thriller-writer Steven James wrote article about how to use coincidence well: “What a Coincidence: 7 Strategies for Creating Clever Coincidences in Fiction.” In another nice real-life coincidence, way back in the late 90s, Steven James used to shop in the bookstore I managed in Johnson City, Tennessee. We belonged to a fledgling writers’ group and had good conversations over lunch a few times.

What fun coincidences have you experienced? Answer in a comment for a chance to win a copy of Heather and Homicide (sorry, North American entries only).


True crime writer Heather Kilbride arrives in the seacoast town of Inversgail, Scotland, to research a recent murder for her new book. But if that’s true, why does she seem more interested in William Clark, a shadowy lawyer with no connection to the murder? Her nosy questions arouse the suspicions of Constable Hobbs, the members of a local writers’ group, and Janet Marsh and her crew of amateur sleuths at Yon Bonnie Books.

Heather and Homicide is a story featuring unconventional research methods, miniature books, tempting dark chocolate cake, and an ancient circle of standing stones. 

Buy links:

Heather and Homicide is available at independent bookstoresBarnes & Noble, and Amazon in hardback, e-book, and audio. Or ask for it at your local library. 


Molly MacRae

The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” She’s the bestselling, award-winning author of the Highland Bookshop Mysteries and the Haunted Yarn Shop. Her short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990 and she’s a winner of the Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction. Molly lives in Champaign, Illinois. You can visit her at www.mollymacrae.com.

47 Thoughts

  1. I love all those coincidences, Molly! Wow. I can’t think of coincidences in my own life, unless you count author Connie Berry telling me a few years ago she is my distant cousins’s husband’s brother’s wife, which makes us related, kinda sorta! Best of luck with the new book.

    1. Ha! That’s a fantastic relationship you share with Connie, Edith, and so much fun to say. It sounds like a line from a patter song – maybe the refrain. Thanks for having me on the Wickeds today. It’s a great place to visit.

  2. Congratulations on the release! I can’t wait for the chance to read it.

    The best one that comes to mind is when I found out that a relative by marriage was actually a distant cousin of mine. While growing up and being the seen but not heard kid as we were taught, I had often heard the story of a relative who had been pregnant when she got was bite by a snake. The way I heard it, she went into labor after the bite, but both mother and baby died from affects of the bit. Before she died she had turned a large black area where the snake bit her. The buried both in the same coffin.

    No imagine my surprise when as an adult being at a function for a relative of my then husband’s family and hearing almost the same details being told by a sister-in-law. We started to compare notes and family trees to find out we were actually distance kin. The fun part is my marriage dissolved (most happily so), but I found a relative and lasting friend.

    Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of “Heather and Homicide”! Shared and hoping to be the very fortunate one selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  3. That’s a whole short story right there, Kay, happy ending and all. Great coincidence! Thanks for stopping by today.

  4. I don’t have any writing-related coincidences jump to mind. But, like Edith, I found out by pure happenstance that I’m kinda-sorta related (by marriage) to author Lissa Marie Redmond.

  5. Welcome back to the blog, Molly. Coincidences do happen in real life. I love the way Kate Atkinson plays with them in her Jackson Brodie mysteries. A mystery-writing friend once told me that coincidences are fine in mystery fiction as long as they make things harder for the protagonist, not easier.

    I’ve had a similiar coincidence as Kay and Edith, finding out on Ancestry late at night that my ex-sister-in-law, a woman I’ve spent holidays with for 35+ years, is weirdly related to me in the sense that her father’s first wife is distantly related to me, and therefore her half-brother is related to me. None of it makes any sense in terms of geography or family history or how we came to know one another, but there it is.

    1. That’s an interesting point, Barb, that coincidences should make things harder rather than easier for the protagonist. My mind immediately starts playing with that idea. Great weird relationship coincidence!

  6. Heather and Homicide sounds wonderful! You are describing quite the trail of coincidences. One of my favorite coincidences occurred during a trial of Ancestor.com. I looked up my family and there was someone whose name I didn’t recognize who had put together my mother’s family tree. I contacted the person and discovered it was my cousin whom I hadn’t seen since I was 11. We are still in close touch.

  7. This is a great series, I like seeing how the women involved in the bookstore and tea shop are adapting to living in a new country. My coincidence would be related to Facebook (I know). A cousin who I remember hearing about as a child reached out to me asking if my father was Harold. As a result of that I have become friends with cousins across the US.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Karen. I’m so glad you like the books. I love that a world of cousins opened up for you through that chance encounter on Facebook.

  8. Congratulations on the new book! I love all of your coincidences. One of my favorites was talking to a man my husband had worked with for six months and finding out in minutes that he went to a small, private church high school in Pennsylvania with the wife of our best man.

    1. Thanks for the good wishes, Sherry! I love a good small world coincidence like yours.

  9. I have had numerous coincidences in my life, but one of my favorites is that our eldest son’s wife read and loved The Happy Hollister series as a child AND so did I. One day two years ago, my husband and I were at our public library’s bookstore where they sell used books and there on the collectables shelf were all of The Happy Hollister books in the series. Guess what our DIL received from us for Christmas that year? Her childhood books which were ones her older siblings had read were long gone and I read the series from the public library. She was thrilled to be reunited with the books. Congratulations on your new book, sounds like a winner!

    1. We love The Happy Hollisters in our family, too! We had a bunch from my husband’s family and read them to our children, eventually collecting all of them through used bookstores and junk shops. We boxed them up last year and took them to the grandchildren. I’m so glad you found them for your DIL.

  10. Love these coincidences! A friend of mine recently discovered some relatives she had lost touch with when a post by one of them popped up in her Facebook feed. It turned out they had a mutual friend who wasn’t related to either of them.

    1. So much fun, Marla! Facebook has its problems, but stories like this outweigh them. Thanks for stopping by today.

  11. One of my favorite life coincidences is that an older co-worker had my mom as a French teacher when she was in high school. Crazy how we found that out, she even brought in yearbooks for me to see old pictures!

    1. A snippet out of your mom’s life that you wouldn’t have otherwise seen – wonderful!

  12. Congratulations on the new book! What a fun blog topic, too. A writer could never get away with writing the kind of coincidences that happen in real life. Would anybody believe that on our last night in Israel, at a roof top restaurant in Jaffa, I heard a familiar voice and it was my parents neighbors from my hometown? Or that my nephew, in a group apartment in DC, learned after a few months that one of the other renters was a distant cousin? One of them mentioned being related to a prominent judge, and the other said, “But I am…” Phone calls to both sets of parents untangled the branches of the family tree.

    1. Real life gets away with great coincidences like that, but you’re right, Triss. In mysteries, done wrong, they’re hokie.

  13. What a fun story!

    I discovered a coincidence last summer. I was reading the autobiography of the creator of my favorite TV show of all time, and I discovered a picture of someone I know in it. What a truly small world.

    1. Cool! What were the odds. I sometimes wonder if I’ll see my dad in a random WWII photograph. It hasn’t happened yet, but it seems like it could.

  14. Would love to win this fascinating book. Once when flying back from Peru, on a flight from Lima to Miami, I was talking to the woman behind me. She asked where I was from and I said a very small town in NW Pennsylvania. When I told her the name, she said her grandmother lived in an even smaller town nearby.

    1. I know things like that happen, and after reading all these comments I’m reminded that they happen fairly often. But I think I’ll probably still always be amazed. They’re so much fun. You know what else is fun? The first line of your story – Once when flying back from Peru. So coo!

  15. Yes,I believe in coincidences for sure! Your book sounds very intriguing ! Thank you so much for sharing all this and for sharing your book blurb. Have a Great weekend and stay safe.

  16. The only coincidence I can think of is the amazing fact that I review mysteries on a reputable on-line site; I’ve reviewed YOU on that side and would be delighted to do so again.


    1. That is a fabulous coincidence, P.J.! Nice to see you here. I enjoy your reviews (and will put a bug in someone’s ear about a review copy of this one).

  17. My dad’s cousin married the brother of my mother’s sister so I have double cousins. Also I loved Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond series. Stay safe and well.

    1. Double cousins sound like the premise for a TV show. Maybe an update of the Patty Duke show. I’m so glad you like Dorothy Dunnett. She was amazing, wasn’t she?

  18. Congratulations on your new book!!!
    I received a book for my birthday this past year. And one of the characters last name (Yelvington)
    in the book was the same last name as my mother, before she got married.
    Of course I had to ask her about the name.
    She responded back and said it was her grandmothers last name!
    I thought wouldn’t that be neat if she was related to my mother!
    Would love to win your book!

    1. Thank you! It seems like the odds should be in favor of your mother and the author’s grandmother being related. It’s a cool coincidence whether they are or not.

  19. I lived in Bakersfield, CA for 35 years. Until I moved there, I had never heard of the place. While it’s a fairly large city, it’s not well known. I moved to Tacoma to help my aging parents about 5 years ago now. It was really weird. It seemed like every 3rd person I meet had lived in Bakersfield or knew someone who did. Since move to the very small town of Moscow, ID. The phenomenon has continued. I have met any number of people from Bakersfield. Weird…

    1. I’m glad you like the sound of the book, Barbara. Check with your public library to see if they have it. If they don’t, and if they take suggestions, ask them to get it and put you on hold first in line.

      1. I am REALLY abiding by social isolation rules, and I have probably my life-time’s supply of ARCs and other books already on site, but that IS a great suggestion.

  20. I met my husband of almost 50 years on a blind date. I had been to a fortune teller who said I would live near water ,he lived on Lake Erie.

  21. Thank you! I’m glad you like the sound of it. The contest is closed, but if your public library is open, you check to see if they have it (or suggest they get it). Bookstores have it, too.

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