Friday, January 22, 2010

Review: Death of a Valentine: A Hamish MacBeth Mystery by M.C. Beaton

Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Jan 12 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446547387
ISBN-13: 978-0446547383

From the publisher:

Amazing news has spread across the Scottish countryside. The most famous of highland bachelors, police sergeant Hamish Macbeth, may actually marry at last. The entire village of Lochdubh adores Macbeth's bride-to-be. Josie McSween is Hamish's new constable, and she is a pretty little thing, with glossy brown hair and big brown eyes. The local folk think that Josie is quite a catch, but Hamish couldn't be more miserable.

The wedding wouldn't be happening if it weren't for the murder of a beautiful woman in a nearby village. After the gorgeous woman receives a deadly Valentine's Day gift, Hamish and Josie take on the case. However, they soon discover that the list of the victim's admirers is endless. The case confirms Hamish's belief that love is extremely dangerous, but he still can't avoid the events that lead up to his celebrated engagement.

I started reading the Hamish MacBeth books after watching the short lived BBC television series of the same name. While the storylines and characters from the books differ greatly from the TV series, the atmosphere surrounding each story is similar; the small town where everyone know everyone else's business and people show no shame for sticking their noses in it.

Death of a Valentine is the 25th book in the Hamish MacBeth series, of which I've probably read about 3/4's. This time around, Hamish has to solve the murder of a local beauty queen and, as always, things aren't as simple as they seem to be. The woman in question has left behind her a trail of bitterness and hatred that leaves many suspects on Hamish's list. He has a sixth sense for the truth and is determined to get his man (or woman).

But there's a wrench in his usual way of doing things that doesn't involve his boss and nemesis, Blair, this time. He's been given a constable, Josie, and unbeknownst to him, she has an agenda. Josie thinks with some well timed eyelash batting, she will attract the attention of the famous Hamish MacBeth. When her plans begin to turn sour, she turns to some drastic measures to ensure her future.

While I felt the "love" story was a bit silly, I suppose there are woman out there that will stop at nothing to get the "man of their dreams", which lends some credence to this part of the book. The storyline becomes a bit of a comedy of errors; Hamish seems doomed as a series of people, unknowingly, compound his misery with incrementing stupidity. I just found it a bit hard to swallow that he couldn't figure out what was going on when he's the one that solves the crimes before his counterparts in Strathbane usually even get a clue.

That part aside, what I love about these books is the locale involved.The Highlands of Scotland are filled with green grass, mountains, fresh air, and yes, the villages where privacy is virtually unheard of. They make me long to visit the country that I lived in for a short time and which I don't get to return to often enough. The town where my parents were raised even gets a passing mention in Death of a Valentine, though not in the most flattering light (it's almost considered the crime capital, being close to Glasgow).

M.C. Beaton gives us the charm of the small community of Lochdubh while showing the contrast of the criminal element that is unfortunately spreading through the country. In Hamish MacBeth, she has created a character stuck in a bit of a time warp. He struggles with maintaining a peaceful life in his beloved village while constantly being bombarded with the harsh realities of the modern era. Not to mention, he doesn't seem to be aging very quickly even though Death of a Valentine encompasses more than a year's time frame. It's all an entertaining enigma.

I do enjoy reading the Hamish MacBeth series and if you like "cozy mysteries", you will too. Death of a Valentine, as well as the others in the series, are quick reads and full of Highland charm and humour.


Ryan G said...

This is one of those series that I always mean to get started on but haven't yet. One of these days I'm going to quit procrastinating and get to them. Thanks for the review.

Melissa (My World) said...

This sounds like a great book in an outstanding series. I have not read any but they sound enjoyable. If you can read this many in a series and still enjoy them - that says a lot! Must be an amazing author to keep the series going wonderfully.

Thanks for introducing me.

Jackie said...

Hi Ryan! Good to see you around. The books are all fairly quick reads and while not the most in-depth of mysteries they have a certain charm.

Thanks, Melissa! M.C. Beaton publishes one of these books every year (I think) and they're pretty small (around 200 pages) so its easy to fit into my reading schedule. I gush a little because of the Scottish content...

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