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Death of a Valentine - M.C.Beaton

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Paperback: 240 pages / Publisher: Robinson Publishing / Published: 27 Jan 2011

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      20.01.2013 11:18
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      A Highland mystery

      ==Synopsis of the book:==

      In the Highland of Scotland the local Police Sergeant Hamish Macbeth is given a new Constable to help him. This lady Josie McSween unbeknown to Hamish has a secret agenda. She being a romantic lady has decided Hamish is the man for her and she will do anything to get this bachelor to marry her. In the meantime she must carry on her Police work until something sparks the flame of passion in him.

      However their quiet lives are shaken when local teenager Annie Fleming the Lammas beauty queen is murdered. When a letter bomb explodes when she is opening a package on Valentines Day along with her many cards. Hamish must now investigate why on the surface of things this respectable girl has suddenly been killed. This is an opportunity that Josie meanwhile has been looking forward to as a murder will mean she and Hamish will need to work together to try and find the murderer, rather than work separately as they did previously.

      ==My thoughts on this novel:==

      I thought this was a very enjoyable thriller. It was certainly quite different to what I expected as you had two main stories running through the book. One dealing with the murder and subsequent activity following the Valentine murder. While the other dealt with Josie's attempts to persuade Hamish that she was the girl he should marry. And while the murder investigation was quite serious, Josie's attempts where still serious but as a reader there was plenty to amuse and entertain about the situation she invited or tried to take advantage of.

      In the past few months I have read several books from M.C.Beaton and I must be honest that I enjoy her relaxed but always interesting writing style. Her stories tend to be well thought out mysteries with a few good twists within them and this book was no exception to that. Although if I am to be critical of this story I would have preferred more emphasis on the murder investigation and less on Hamish and Josie's relationship.

      The Hamish Macbeth stories are quite well known as they have been successfully transferred to television, but for me I prefer the written word. This is the 25th novel in the series and first published in 2010. Added to which this author has also created another very popular series of crime stories in the Agatha Raisin series. On balance I would say I prefer the Hamish Macbeth stories because the lead character I feel I have more in common with, although they are both enjoyable.

      What I find practically instantly pleasing with the Macbeth stories and this one is a perfect example is the beauty of the Scottish Highlands. The author is very good at describing the scenery and while she makes the place come alive she also explains what a harsh and cold place it can be. This is a place I have never thought of visiting before reading one of these books but now I feel I should experience it for myself.

      To my surprise the story starts with a prologue of Hamish waiting in the Church for his bride Josie McSween. To my mind this was not necessary and in a sense gave too much away. I would have preferred not to have known this and see as I went on Josie's often clumsy attempts to woo Hamish as it was at time very funny and it took some of the mystery away, knowing that she had managed to at least get him to the church. Although when the first chapter did begin it was made clear the story was one year earlier.

      The story began with Josie requesting a transfer to work under Hamish after meeting and falling in love with him when he visited Strathbane. He was blissfully unaware of this and as the story was written from both characters perspectives you could see that while she was very interested in him, he had none in her. This was to make this side of the story at times funny but at others a little sad, to see the extremes Josie was prepared to go to get her man.

      However for me the story really began when Valentine's Day arrived and Annie was blown apart by a letter bomb. This forced Hamish to start to try uncovering more about this young lady and her life. I really enjoyed the way this part of the story developed as she was very different to her parent's perception of her. And it was good to have a lot of suspects within this story that Hamish needed to try and eliminate that had a reason for wanting the Lammas Queen dead.

      I really enjoyed the route the murder investigation followed, especially as there were several good and unexpected twists within the story. And as the investigation went on so did Josie's ever more desperate attempts to get Hamish to notice her, pay her more attention and ultimately marry her. In this story I am glad to say I did not have a clue who the guilty party could be and as other factors came into play it was only towards the end when the answers became clearer.

      While there was a lot of mystery and suspense in the story I felt the author dampened these flames with the story for Hamish and Josie. Because while I was trying to solve the murder as Hamish was I found the interruptions took some of the suspense away. In a sense it also took some of the credibility of the story as well as Hamish failed to have any inkling that Josie was in love with him and wanting to marry him.

      The story had a good pace to it and I particularly enjoyed the conclusion to the investigation. It was exciting and my only criticism was it all seemed to end a little too quickly. I expected a longer more drawn out solution but when it came it was quick and done with. Leaving the final two chapters dealing with where the book started as Hamish and Josie getting ready to marry. I would have preferred to have the investigations conclusion last as I felt I was not so interested after that had been resolved.

      Hamish is the main character in these stories and one I like and respect as a good Policeman. I like the way he is responsible within his community for policing it. Up to reading this book I thought he was intelligent if somewhat lucky with some of his deductions. But in this story I found it hard to believe this man of the world did not twig Josie's feelings for him. Although as always I did enjoy his dealings with Head Office and his very poor relationship with his boss Daviot. However it is his relationship with Josie that was key to this story and while it times I thought there was too much emphasis on it and not enough on the investigation it was still at times funny and entertaining.

      In many ways I find these Hamish Macbeth stories quite light reading. They are not as complex or deep as other mysteries on the market. That is not to say they are not well written and enjoyable because they are, it's just they for me are not as challenging. I think for that reason I will having enjoyed a few of them now, I will try a different author who can supply me with a different type of thriller. For me this was never a page turner rather an interesting story in a good series that is gentle and easy to read. The length of the story was about right to tell an interesting yarn and I found at only 240 pages long I got through it in a few evenings.

      ==Conclusion:==
      I thought this was a good and enjoyable piece of crime fiction. It was a cleverly thought out investigation that had some good twists and turns within it. My main disappointment with the story was too much time was spent finding out what Josie's latest antics where in order to try and woo Hamish. Yes this was interesting but I feel sure that Hamish must have realised that Josie was in love with him and surely Josie should have given up and realised he wasn't the slightest bit interested in her. But as they say love can be blind because it certainly was for her!!

      ==Other Information:==

      Paperback version:
      Pages: 240
      Price: £4.89
      Publisher: Robinson Publishing
      ISBN-10: 1849015090
      ISBN-13: 978-1849017097
      Year first published: 2010
      More about the author: www.agatharaisin.co.uk

      Thanks for reading my review.

      This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name,

      © CPTDANIELS January 2013.

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