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Marion Chesney has been writing the Hamish Macbeth crime series of books under her pen name of M.C. Beaton since 1985 and 'Death of a Dustman from 2002 is the sixteenth story in the series. As ever the book features Hamish Macbeth, the rural policeman who'll do anything for a quiet life. He doesn't want promotion or any recognition, all he wants is to be left alone in the sleepy Scottish Highland village of Lochdubh (pronounced Lock Doo). The problem is that, over the course of this series of novels, it seems to have become Scotland's murder hotspot!
There's a formula to these books and this one doesn't stray very far from it at all. Hamish is, as ever, having problems with his love life and the beautiful Priscilla Halburton-Smythe is back as the object of his affection. Long-time readers may want them to get together one day but the tension between the two is a delight to read as they both clearly know that they are meant to be together but also know that the differences in their classes means that any romance would be doomed.
Another part of the Macbeth formula is that a newcomer should be introduced, should rub everyone up the wrong way and be promptly bumped off. The clue is usually in the title and this novel is no exception. A new green initiative from the local council promotes Loch Dubh's bin man to the heights of Environmental Officer and his recycling demands annoy many of the locals. Obviously one of them bears a deeper grudge than the others as his body is soon found, stuffed inside one of his own recycling bins. Nobody, not even his own family, are sad to see the back of him but did any of the locals actually hate him enough to do him in?
As with all the Macbeth books this is written in a very simple style. There is nothing to particularly tax the reader and some will think that it's too 'easy'. Others however will find that simplicity endearing. These stories are gentle, easy reads that occasionally rely on far-fetched resolutions, but that doesn't matter. The readers will forgive M. C. Beaton almost anything as long as Hamish and the villagers on his patch are treated sympathetically and this novel does this particularly well. We see the policeman torn between doing what he should as an officer of the law and doing what he knows to be 'the right thing' to protect some of his friends and neighbours from unnecessary embarrassment. What should he do? What does he do? What would we do in the same situation? I like this kind of question and it's answered in a believable way.
This is most definitely one of the better Macbeth novels. All the familiar cast of locals are back and they're just as endearingly annoying as ever. The plot is resolved satisfactorily though probably not if you're the kind of reader that tries to work things out before the end. These aren't that kind of whodunit. They're simple reads that wouldn't have been out of place in the 1920's or 1950's. Sometimes in these fast-paced days we all need to just slow down a little.
==Synopsis of the book:==
In Lochdubh in the Highlands of Scotland there are changes afoot. A new Councillor is keen on improving the Environment and is horrified when she sees the rubbish has not been collected. As a result she tells the Dustman Fergus Macleod he must report to her the following morning. This he does and he explains the problem is the old vehicle he is working with. Mrs Fleming from Strathbane Council agrees he needs a new vehicle, new clothes, a pay rise and now instructs him to provide different bins for the various different types of waste. He is also now an Environmental Officer.
This new scheme does not go down well with the locals because if they get the wrong things in the wrong boxes Fergus will not collect it and leave notes advising them of such. Making the former Dustman unpopular with all the locals. Fergus is prone to disappearing after a drunken binge during his days off's, but when he does not appear for work one day it is a cause for concern for Sergeant Hamish Macbeth. However the last thing he expects is to find his dead body in a Dustbin having been murdered. Hamish must now find out who killed this unpopular man.
==My thoughts on the novel:==
I thought this was a very enjoyable murder mystery. Which was a real surprise to me because I had tried to watch the television series that the books are based on, but never really taken to them. But admittedly this could be me as I love books and always tend to think they are better than the television equivalent. But having now read and liked this book I would really like to see the television programme of it, and I'm sure I would now enjoy it more.
This was my first experience of M.C Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series. I recently read a couple of the Agatha Raison series and also found them very entertaining. This really prompted me to try a different series and see how they compare. And on this form they compare very favourable, because while I liked the Agatha Raisin series I found I had little in common with the lead character. Whereas Hamish Macbeth I felt more empathy and understanding with.
M.C.Beaton is a pseudonym used by Marion Chesney. What I like about her is she writes about locations she knows about. This series is set in the Highlands of Scotland where she was born. While the Agatha Raison ones are set in the Cotswolds where she know lives. I think this helps when writing and certainly in this Hamish Macbeth book I really got a good feel of what it was like in live in the Highlands with the beautiful scenery but that fact it was often cold, windy and exposed and for some living off the land can be a precarious business.
So far Beaton has written 51 novels with the majority 27 being in the Hamish Macbeth series. The book I have just read is 16th in the series and was first published in 2001. One feature I noticed which I always think is a clever ploy is at the end of the story the author then shares with you the first chapter of their next book, just to try and get you hooked to purchase it. Admittedly I wimped out of this as I didn't want to get hooked and didn't attempt to read it, but I thought it could be a useful feature for the reader.
I think I had previously decided I must try a Hamish Macbeth story because I have enjoyed the Agatha Raisin books I had attempted. So when I saw this one on sale in my local charity shop my decision had basically been made. However it was backed up by the books interesting title and the very good summary on the rear of the book. It told of this unpopular Dustman who had recently had his job upgraded to an Environment Officer turned him into a bully. I liked the sound of this and while no murder was mentioned I thought with this being the case there would be many candidates if he were to be killed off.
The story did not have a prologue but every chapter had a quote from a famous writer before it. It was just a line or three before the chapter began. To be honest I thought while a different idea was a waste of time as I quite often did not understand the quote and felt it added little value to the story itself. But what I did find was the story was broken into decent sized chapter and when the rather wanted to change the scene rather than have a new chapter every time she highlighted to the reader with a gap in the page and a new paragraph so it was obvious.
I found the story written in a relaxed but interesting way. The author set the scene and introduced the main characters in such a way that the characters were instantly recognisable throughout the story. Added to which despite it being a murder mystery there were elements of humour within the story which for me added to the scenes, because you could picture them so clearly. Generally these funny moments involved Hamish's dog Lugs and I found I looked forward to these lighter moments.
The story I was very easy to get into and I enjoyed the way it developed. Because I felt as well as the murder investigation there was plenty more happening within the story. I loved a traditional murder enquiry where the Police must through hard work find the clues and this was exactly what happened in this story. With the occasional twist to add to the mystery and change the perspective of the story.
I enjoyed the way it developed and found it to be a well paced investigation. And because Hamish was so down to earth I always felt on his side particularly as the Locals did not want to break ranks and help him in his work. Added to which he was treated as an outcast by the more senior Police officers who were brought in from the headquarters. It all made for a good mystery that always had me involved and wanting to know the truth behind what had happened.
The stories pace increased as it came to its conclusion. It was an exciting ending and quite different from what I had expected. It brought up questions but these were all answered in the epilogue that followed it. What I was particularly pleased about was I felt within the story every loose end was tidied up as it is one of my pet hates when things are left unanswered to make the reader read the next book in the series to answer.
Hamish was the lead character and I really liked his practical approach to his job. I found him easy to like and relate to because while he was trying to protect some of the Locals they were in return not helping him. This I found frustrating for him but understandable as we both felt like outsiders as they tried to protect their own and the Police did not figure in this plan. Hamish because he had no pretensions was easy to respect and I liked the way he tried to protect and support his Constable Clarry Graham who was a poor Policeman. I enjoyed the way the two men interacted and Hamish tried to manage this lazy man whose only talent seemed to be his cooking skills.
That was one of the beauties of this story the quality and diversity of the author characters within the story. I thought these characters were easy to recognise because of their personalities and I felt the author had really thought about them and described them all really well so that the reader could picture them. And because the story was cleverly written there was always a feeling of mystery about these characters and that they were not telling Hamish everything they knew.
The books length I thought was about right to tell a very well thought out and interesting crime thriller. For me there was just the right amount of detail in the story to ensure there was suspense throughout without boring me in unimportant or unrelated facts. From my perspective I will definitely be looking to read another in this series very soon as I really enjoyed this one.
For me this was an excellent murder mystery and one I will certainly be recommending. The story was always interesting and I found in Hamish Macbeth a character I liked and found very easy to relate too. The only negative for me was the slightly annoying quote at the start of each chapter, which for me was a waste of time. Following enjoying this one I really an looking forward to the next one in the series to see how it compares and lives up to this one.
Price: 4.89 New at Amazon
Year first published: 2001
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS December 2012