Beaton, M C - Death of a Gentle Lady
It's hard for me to believe but DEATH OF A GENTLE LADY is the twenty-fourth outing for Highland police constable Hamish Macbeth. I've been reading this series avidly since I discovered it in London's crime bookshop, Murder One, back in the days when it was in Denmark Street. I was going through a regency romance reading phase, especially those by Marion Chesney and lo and behold here she was writing mysteries, so I bought DEATH OF A GOSSIP and was hooked.
Not a lot has changed in Hamish's world in the twenty plus years he's been a police constable. He's aged a couple of years perhaps but his hair's still red with no sign of grey, still single and still lacking any desire to leave the idyllic sea-loch-side village of Lochdubh. Every year an incomer (usually English) will move to the village. They'll stay a few months before either getting killed or being arrested for murder. Hamish solves the case, gives the credit to others, lusts after the beautiful but cold Priscilla Halburton-Smythe and then settles back into his routine.
In this case, the incomer is Mrs Margaret Gentle, a lady with airs who owns a cliff-side castle. Her attractive maid is unhappy as she's in the UK illegally. And by coincidence Hamish is looking for a reason not to be kicked out of his policeman's house. A marriage of convenience is agreed. However before the marriage goes through, a death occurs, followed soon after by the discovery of another body. When Hamish gets nowhere with solving the murders, he sets himself up as bait and has a couple of near misses before the murderer is revealed.
M C Beaton is well known for her Agatha Raisin series which I also love but Hamish has the edge. I always look forward to visiting the impossibly quaint Lochdubh and meeting the regular characters, seeing how Hamish's pets are and what status his love-life is in. The whodunit is equally entertaining and normally quite hard to figure out. Hamish is a warmer character than Agatha but both share the ability to fall for the wrong person. These books are entertaining cozies which bear little resemblance to real life but that's why I adore them. I'm left wondering though, is Angus the seer correct in proclaiming that Hamish will always be a bachelor?
Karen Meek, England