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Death of a Witch - M.C. Beaton

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Paperback: 224 pages / Publisher: Robinson Publishing / Published: 25 Feb 2010

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      07.04.2013 11:01
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      Funny mystery

      ==Synopsis of the book:==

      PC Hamish Macbeth is very glad to be back in Lochdubh after a horrible holiday in Spain. He was looking for relaxation, a new love and sun, but what he got was very much older ladies lusting after him. However he immediately senses something is not right and a new mysterious lady called Catriona Beldame is causing something of a stir. The men folk seem to be visiting her in droves and Hamish wonders what she is doing to encourage all this attention.

      He visits the lady himself and finds himself charmed by her. Soon though he discovers she is selling black magic potions that promise to spice up you love life. The only problem being they come with some side effects. The men are not keen to talk about either what they are getting or the side effects and Hamish warns Catriona that she must not sell or practice her unusual ways in the village and he finds himself having an unpleasant and very public confrontation with her. A few days later he is asked to check on her as she has not been seen since this altercation. He breaks in and finds her naked body on her bed where she has been murdered. Now he must try and solve the mystery as long as he can get the locals to talk to him about her and prove to them that he was not responsible for this crime.

      ==My thoughts on the novel:==

      I found this a pleasant and in the main quite enjoyable mystery. I have certainly read much better but for what it was it was an interesting if never a fascinating read. For me this series of stories which have been successfully transferred to television are light stories that don't require too much thinking about and are quite short so ideal for a holiday. They lack the kind of depth that more serious crime readers would enjoy but they are well thought out and always entertain.

      In this story Hamish comes face to face with a women he and many locals believe is a witch. This is the 24th of 28 in the Macbeth series of stories. And unsurprisingly they are all set in the Highland of Scotland an area known well by the author M.C.Beaton who lived there for many years. As well as the Hamish Macbeth series she has also written another 23 books in the Agatha Raisin series which are also murder mysteries.

      For me the thing I most like about the Hamish Macbeth stories in the humour within it. I find this really compliments the mystery because some of the scenes usually involving his boss are very funny and always bring a smile to my face. This story was no exception and through some clever writing the reader is able to picture the scene very clearly. And what I find particularly good is sometimes this humour is at the star characters expense.

      Mt reason for choosing this book was simply I knew I was going to have a long hard week ahead of me and I wanted a crime story that was not too long and too complicated. So when I checked my shelves and found this book I thought I might enjoy it. It came a part of a 12 book purchase and while I have several others yet to try I selected this one based solely on its title. I am sure I am not along in being fascinated by the world of witches and I wanted to know what would happen when Macbeth came into contact with her.

      Having decided on this book, I flipped it over to read the summary on the back cover. This was only two short paragraphs long but it certainly made me even more interested in reading it. It told of Hamish discovering this mysterious lady selling these love potions and trying to warn her not to because of some of the consequences of them. Below this was a few compliments from various publications which for once I found relevant because they were about the book I was about to read.

      As soon as I started reading the story I was enjoying it. I found the Macbeth's holiday news to be very amusing and I liked the concept of this witch coming to the village while he was away. Although I would have liked more interaction between him and her as I thought they could have played out more humorous scenes. So when the murder did happen I was for once a bit disappointed especially as I found the witch character to be entertaining.

      What I find is realistic about these stories is how hard Macbeth finds it to get anyone in the village to talk to him. It is almost as if he has to pry it out of them especially as it this story these men were looking to spice up their love lives. However in trying to find the truth I did not expect quite as much excitement and adventure as there turned out to be. If I am completely honest I would say that because of the lack of depth in the murder mystery, I tend to get more enjoyment learning about the funny situations this Policeman finds himself in.

      I found the story did not seem to flow that well. There were several elements to the story and I found the investigation the least interesting of these as there appeared to be few clues and no-one was willing to help the Policeman. As a result I found the single women who were vying to a greater and lesser degree for his attention more interesting. Yes it was a very easy story to read and yes I found I got through it in no time at all, but it all seemed a bit disjointed. For example without giving anything away the mystery was solved a full 40 pages before the story ended and for me anyway there seemed little point in what followed. Especially as all the lose ends could easily have been cleared up in 10 pages.

      In some ways Hamish skill at solving murders is in stark contrasts to his successes in his personal life. I think that is why as a character he is endearing to the reader. As I do find him quite easy to like as a character because he is happy to be a local Policeman, he doesn't want to be promoted and have to leave his home. In particular I find his love life very entertaining as while he never seems to have a girlfriend the ladies do like him. However generally something goes wrong and the relationship never goes very far. I love the way he interacts with his boss and the way they cannot see eye to eye on anything, it is must amusing.

      A feature I really enjoy when reading these stories is the insight the author had about the Scottish Highlands. She makes it sound at times a very romantic place while at others you can see the starkness and how bleak it can be. She explains this really well and I love the way she also highlights the beauty of this place. It clearly comes through that she loves the place and knows it very well. For me it is one of the lovely features of the books.

      ==Conclusion:==

      I think on balance I will give this murder mystery 3 stars. On the positive side it was very funny at times and I love the black comedy within it. Added to this the wonderful descriptions of the Highlands and the well thought out mystery you have a very good novel. However it still lacks depth within the crime investigation and I find this the least interesting part of the book when usually it is the most for me. Added to this the humour sometimes detracts from the crime story as you sometimes find it hard to take Hamish Macbeth seriously.

      ==Other Information:==

      Pages: 224
      Price: 5.24
      Publisher: Robinson Publishing
      ISBN-10: 1845299647
      ISBN-13: 978-1845299644
      Year first published: 2009

      Thanks for reading my review.

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

      (c) CPTDANIELS April 2013.

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