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Beaton, M C - Death of a Gentle Lady
Hardback: 224 pages (Apr. 2008) Publisher: Constable Crime ISBN: 1845296486

It's hard for me to believe but DEATH OF A GENTLE LADY is the twenty-fourth outing for Highland police constable Hamish Macbeth. I've been reading this series avidly since I discovered it in London's crime bookshop, Murder One, back in the days when it was in Denmark Street. I was going through a regency romance reading phase, especially those by Marion Chesney and lo and behold here she was writing mysteries, so I bought DEATH OF A GOSSIP and was hooked.

Not a lot has changed in Hamish's world in the twenty plus years he's been a police constable. He's aged a couple of years perhaps but his hair's still red with no sign of grey, still single and still lacking any desire to leave the idyllic sea-loch-side village of Lochdubh. Every year an incomer (usually English) will move to the village. They'll stay a few months before either getting killed or being arrested for murder. Hamish solves the case, gives the credit to others, lusts after the beautiful but cold Priscilla Halburton-Smythe and then settles back into his routine.

In this case, the incomer is Mrs Margaret Gentle, a lady with airs who owns a cliff-side castle. Her attractive maid is unhappy as she's in the UK illegally. And by coincidence Hamish is looking for a reason not to be kicked out of his policeman's house. A marriage of convenience is agreed. However before the marriage goes through, a death occurs, followed soon after by the discovery of another body. When Hamish gets nowhere with solving the murders, he sets himself up as bait and has a couple of near misses before the murderer is revealed.

M C Beaton is well known for her Agatha Raisin series which I also love but Hamish has the edge. I always look forward to visiting the impossibly quaint Lochdubh and meeting the regular characters, seeing how Hamish's pets are and what status his love-life is in. The whodunit is equally entertaining and normally quite hard to figure out. Hamish is a warmer character than Agatha but both share the ability to fall for the wrong person. These books are entertaining cozies which bear little resemblance to real life but that's why I adore them. I'm left wondering though, is Angus the seer correct in proclaiming that Hamish will always be a bachelor?

Karen Meek, England
May 2008

Karen blogs at
Euro Crime.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 19/04/2009 11:30