Nora Pennington knows about secrets. Although her burn scars keep her from hiding away all of her secrets, she still has plenty packed away where no one can get to them. And while she is now the owner of Miracle Books in Miracle Springs, North Carolina, she can never forget what happened before, what brought her to a whole new life in a new place.
Miracle Springs is known as a place of healing. There are hot springs that bring people seeking comfort and restoration through their warmth. But there is more healing taking place in town than just what the springs offer. Hester Winthrop, owner of the Gingerbread House has a way of meeting a person and then baking them a custom "comfort scone." Often, this is accompanied by a dose of Nora's bibliotherapy. After sitting and talking with someone for a bit, Nora, a former librarian and constant reader, comes up with a reading list that can take someone through their pain to a point of healing.
So when a businessman seemed troubled and was looking for peace, Nora encouraged him to go to the Gingerbread House and then to visit her at Miracle Books, so that she and Hester could try to help him find some comfort and respite in his suffering. But he never shows up in the bookstore, and Nora finds out later that he was killed by the incoming train. Did he jump? Was he pushed? And if so, by whom?
Nora and Hester are joined by June from the Thermal Pools and Estelle, who owns the local beauty salon, as they search for answers. And as they put their heads together to try to figure out the mystery, they realized that they all held secrets and put walls up around themselves to keep those secrets to themselves. As the secrets come out--the secrets of the women as well as the secrets of the man killed by the train--the women get closer to each other, and closer to danger. The Secret, Book, and Scone Society is formed and quickly became the target of a group of conspirators working hard to keep their secrets--and their illegal activities--private.
I picked this up thinking it was a cozy mystery, but it went far deeper into the human condition than most cozies do. There is a depth of understanding of loneliness, isolation, grief, and healing that elevates this from a cozy to a literary mystery, and the crime is more complex than simple greed or revenge. Ellery Adams' The Secret, Book, and Scone Society is a murder mystery with powerful emotions and complicated relationships, and the only thing missing from the experience of reading it is the fact that I have no comfort scones of my own.
I snagged the audio version of this, and I thought narrator Cris Dukehart did a stellar job with the narration.
One word of warning though: while the businessman never made it to Miracle Books for his stack of therapy books, several other customers do. Prepare yourself for a list of amazing book titles that will make your TBR beg for mercy.