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==Synopsis of the book:==
In the Highlands of Scotland Priscilla Halburton-Smythe is bringing her fiancée up from London to meet her family and friends. They have come up from London and for successful Henry Withering this is his first visit to Scotland. They will be staying at her parents castle in Lochdubh along with friends of theirs to celebrate the occasion of their only daughter getting engaged. On route Priscilla meet the local Policeman and old friend Hamish Macbeth who is far for delighted with the news as he has always been sweet on her. Despite this he excepts her invitation to Dinner the following evening and is told it is a black tie affair.
Amongst the guests is a womaniser called Captain Bartlett who bets his old friend Jeremy Pomfret that he will beat him to shoot two grouse the next day. That morning Pomfret is enraged when he discovers Bartlett has gone out at the crack of dawn to win the bet. Later, however Bartlett's body is discovered over a wire fence. It looks like he has accidentally shot himself while trying to get over the fence. Everyone at the castle is shocked by this but only a few of the guests seem genuinely upset by it. However Hamish soon puts the cat amongst the pigeons when he advised them all it is not an accident it is murder!!
==My thoughts on this novel:==
I thought this was a decent crime mystery and one that was full of mystery and surprises. I think that was the main reason I found this book interesting was the unpredictability of the murder investigation. Because one factor that I found very dull was the Hamish/Priscilla relationship. It seemed very odd to me hear she was bringing her new man to meet her parents and every few minutes she seemed to sneak of to be with Hamish. It begged the question why had they not got together before when they were both single.
In the past few months I have read several books from this popular series. This novel was just the second in the series that has so far produced 28 books and was written back in 1987. These books have also been successfully transferred to television. The author M.C.Beaton other popular series of stories feature a character called Agatha Raisin but again they are mysteries. What I think is good is this author writes from experience not necessarily of crime but from where the stories are set. The Hamish Macbeth are the Highlands of Scotland where she grew up and for me it shows her knowledge and love of the place within her descriptions of the sometimes bleak but always beautiful countryside.
What I find is pleasing about the Hamish Macbeth stories and this one was no exception is despite dealing with murders the story have a gentle almost surreal feel to them. It never appears real to me and as I result I can enjoy the story without worrying to much of what might happen to them. I think it is the authors relaxed writing style, which while I enjoy it I do not fell it stretches my intelligence or sometimes lack of too much. I can well imagine these books are popular with the more mature readers in society because they are quite gentle and also popular as a holiday read, because it is not vital to remember everything and the stories are quite straightforward to follow.
All that said I did enjoy this one more than some of the others I have read. I think the reason for that is because this was much more of the traditional murder mystery I grew up with. The type of Agatha Christie story where everyone of the guests had a good reason for wanting the dead man dead. And what Hamish Macbeth had to do in between meeting Priscilla Halburton-Smythe was try and deduce who was actually the killer and why.
The story even began by introducing all the guests in turn to the reader. This was useful as you get to know a little about each one and how they felt about being there and who they liked and disliked. Although for me at this stage I would have liked to have stayed a little longer with each and a little more depth about them and their characters. I think the author could have quite easily achieved this as at times later on in the story I was to feel that the author could pick any reason and any character at random for the murder and we would just have to believe in it.
That said I did like the way the story developed and in particular the way Hamish without seemingly trying puts peoples back up. In this story he was as usual upsetting more senior Policeman who were drafted in as well as the owners of the castle. I always enjoy the humour within these stories as I find it very easy thanks to some good descriptive writing to picture the scene the author is setting and Hamish always seems to land himself in funny situations. Certainly when I feel frustrated with some of the unlikely deductions that Hamish comes up with that are always correct the wit always cheers me up.
I found this story very easy to read and to basically enjoy. In no time at all I found I had reached the conclusion to the story, which was for me a little quick and really lacked excitement, but then I guess not all ending to cases can be on a knife edge and fast and furious. And while I never guessed the guilty party, I was neither surprised nor unsurprised when it was announced as I still felt it could have been anyone of the guests. A few more clues would have helped the reader I feel as I did not get the chance to solve the mystery.
Hamish Macbeth is the main star in this series of stories. In the most part he is a likeable Policeman. He asks little, enjoys the simple pleasures in life and tries to do his best in his isolated community. His relationships with the locals always seems fascinating as there are people who he serves that feel he is lazy and useless, while to others he is helpful and a real friend. I really enjoy his lack of relationship with his bosses and how they try and exclude him from the murder investigations. As a character I like his real human side, the way he is jealous when Priscilla bring her new man to town and he sulks at first around her and tries in his own way to woo her back.
I thought the length of this story was again on the short side. For me it could quite easily have been twice as long with much more detail and more complicated plot. For me that would have been ideal as I love a long twisting story full of the unexpected. And while this story had a few twists and turns within it, I never felt to really turned the story on its head. Maybe by making a more complex story however some of the black humour within it would have been lost, I would like to try that theory out sometime!!
One feature that always impresses me with this series is the way the author gives you a brief taster of the next story in the series by sharing the first chapter. I must admit I don't always read these as I like to choose myself which book I purchase next not be convinced by the author. However on this occasion I did read it and much to my annoyance it sounds really good and interesting!! I do think these are a good set of crime mysteries in a sense it is a bit like a light hearted Agatha Christie novel.
I thought this was a good crime mystery and one I would recommend. It is not as deep or complex as many thrillers and so depending on what style you like will depend if you would enjoy this quite light hearted and fun story. It still had a fair bit of mystery about it but I found I particularly enjoyed the role Hamish played because at times he seemed like the hero while at others he was the clown.
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Year first published: 1983
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name of both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANELS February 2013
Priscilla Halburton-Smythe comes home to Scotland from London with her fiancé, playwright Henry Withering. As he's newly famous her parents invite some well to do and/or titled people to stay at their castle. Captain Peter Barlett is one of the guests and during the course of their stay it becomes apparent that Barlett is not at all a nice man. Amongst the guests are several women that he has used and cast aside as well as men he has upset or angered for something or another. So really it's no surprise when he's found murdered, even though it's been made to look like suicide. With no shortage of potential murderers the police are on the case including local "bobby" Hamish Macbeth, who's not altogether popular at the home of the Halburton-Smythe's except for Priscilla having rather a soft spot for him.
Having read several books in the Agatha Raisin series by MC Beaton and finding I had enjoyed them enough (even though not liking the central character in the books), I was intrigued to find out MC Beaton had been the author of the Hamish Macbeth series which had been televised during the 90s (starring the fabulous Robert Carlyle). Having only watched a few episodes back then I wanted to see how I felt about the actual stories as originally written.
I came across Death of a Cad quite by accident browsing in a charity shop and thought it was as good a place as any to start. It just so happened that Death of a Cad was the second in the Hamish Macbeth series, the first being Death of a Gossip released in 1985. I didn't feel I had missed anything important by not reading Death of a Gossip first as it seems the books can quite easily be read as stand alone novels.
I found the characters in the book to be credible - much more so than in the Agatha Raisin series. Hamish Macbeth is a very likeable character even if he's gruff in his own way. It's clear that the character is happy in his job so is not bothered that senior officers might take credit for his detective work - he's not looking for recognition or promotion, he seems quite happy with his life the way it is. The character is written in such a way that he's not the perfect policeman, he has his faults. Some of the dialogue in the book made me laugh out loud, such as regarding a police interview with a couple of characters referring to them later as Tweedledum and Tweedledee!
I found Death of a Cad an easy read and thoroughly enjoyable. It wasn't one of those reads where I couldn't put the book down and had to read into the early hours of the morning but I did finish the book in 3 or 4 reading sessions. I did find myself a little sad when I got to the end of the book as I found I didn't want it to end. Having guessed who the murderer was around the same time as Hamish Macbeth worked it out I also felt quite smug to be proved right. For those that like a bit of romance in their mystery books, there's a hint of romance between Hamish Macbeth and another major character in the book but it doesn't detract from the story.
As the author M C Beaton is from Scotland herself she has managed to include references to locales in Scotland which added some authenticity to the story. Personally I think Scotland is a beautiful place and it was therefore an added bonus to read about the scenery in the journeys to the various places in the book.
Having read at least half a dozen books from the Agatha Raisin series I realised quite quickly that the Hamish Macbeth series were written in a rather different style - a better style as far as I'm concerned and I now fully intend to read more from the Hamish Macbeth series.
I think it's a testament to how well received this series of books has always been when I see that books in the series are still being written in 2011 with the latest installment to be published called "Death of a Chimney Sweep".
Author: M C Beaton
Publication date: 1987, 2008
Publishers: Constable & Robinson Ltd
OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES
If you're interested in other books in the series, this can be easily found at Wikipedia or listed here: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/b/m-c-beaton/