A Cosy Mystery That Hits The Spot

M C Beaton, the pen-name of Marion Chesney, is a prolific author of cosy mysteries with two hit series to her name…

You may be familiar with Agatha Raisin – a bossy urban sleuth who now lives in the Cotswolds and is delighted to stick her nose into things to keep busy. While I’ve read the first few ARs and enjoyed them in a throwaway kind of way, I find the character too ‘Margot-ish’ (A bossy housewife in the BBC comedy ‘The Good Life’ back in the mid 1970s). I refer you to my pal Simon at Savidge Reads for a better appreciation of Agatha. Incidentally, there are now 21 titles in this series which Beaton started in 1992.

MC’s other series which she started earlier in 1985 and has a 27th book due out next year features Hamish Macbeth

The BBC made a TV series in the late 1990s which starred Robert Carlyle as the canny young Scottish policeman – I loved it.  It fitted the Sunday night drama slot perfectly with the lovely Scottish locations and gentle humour with a slightly surreal edge to it.  There were some great characters, especially TV John – an old clairvoyant who helps Hamish, and Hamish’s on/off relationships with the two female co-stars.  There was also Wee Jock – the policeman’s West Highland Terrier.  Undemanding and always entertaining.  Will the books live up to that …

I’ve only read the first so far – Death of a Gossip, but personally I much preferred Hamish to Agatha.  The Hamish of the books is different in physical appearance to Carlyle, being tall and lanky with fiery red hair, but the approach to the policework was very similar.  It’s not that Hamish is terribly lazy, but he’s so laid back he’s almost horizontal!  He has a very laissez faire approach to his work – rather than actually arrest anyone for poaching, he’ll let them know that he knows and the poacher will lie low for a bit so the problem goes away – until the next time.  His investigative approach is similarly low-key.  The fictional Lochdubh is a picture postcard location, nestled on the lochside with a backdrop of rolling hills and moorland.

So to the murder … The Cartwrights running a fishing school, teaching small groups the art of fly fishing with access to normally out of bounds trout and salmon pools and rivers.  The latest group of eight very different students have arrived.  Within hours of starting it becomes obvious that one of the group, Lady Jane Winders is getting on everyone’s nerves.  She continues to wind everyone up, so it’s not a surprise when she ends up dead in a salmon pool!  It had to be one of the other seven students or the Cartwrights whodunnit.  Hamish was going to investigate in his own quiet way, but then DCI Blair and his team from Inverness arrive and shove him out of the way, treating him like the yokel plod he clearly isn’t.  Uncharacteristically, this winds up the normally placid PC …

Hamish changed into his uniform, admitting to his reflection in the glass that he, Hamish Macbeth, was a very angry man. In fact, he could not quite remember being so angry in all his easygoing life. He was determined to go on talking to the members of the fishing school until someone said something that gave himself away. He was not going to be frightened because it was a murder investigation. All criminals were the same whether it was a theft in the school or poaching deer in the hills. You talked, asked questions, and listened and watched and waited. The hell with Blair.

The penultimate sentence from the quote above sums up Hamish perfectly.  He does just that, and is rewarded with doing a ‘Poirot’, getting all the suspects together to reveal the murderer.   Obviously, most of the suspects, who were not locals, came out as thinly described stereotypical characters, but those who will crop up again in future books are more strongly drawn.  Although angling is of no interest to me, it didn’t dominate proceedings too much, and the necessary explanations were woven into the lecture sessions that were part of the course. 

I liked Hamish very much, and I will definitely be carrying on reading this series when the need for a cosy mystery appeals again.  (7.5/10) I bought this book.

*****

To buy from Amazon.co.uk click below …
Death of a Gossip (Hamish Macbeth) by M C Beaton
Hamish MacBeth : Series 1-3 (6 Disc Box Set) [DVD]

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10 thoughts on “A Cosy Mystery That Hits The Spot

  1. Gosh, my wife and I used to watch Hamish Macbeth – it was quite a good series if I remember correctly.

    I am sure this book is an enchanting read – perhaps perfect for a few days of relaxation on holiday somewhere rural. I read all the Ellis Peter’s series some years ago and whether I’m ready to embark on another crime series – perhaps not unfortunately.

    • It was great TV. Her books aren’t long – they can be read in one session just about. I definitely preferred Hamish to Agatha.

  2. I used to watch the series as well, I recall it was at the beginning of Robert Carlyle’s career! MC Beaton’s also written an Edwardian murder series, the first of which I have on my TBR series, but haven’t read yet. I enjoyed Agatha Raisin, so am looking forward to reading more books by her.

  3. She churns them out doesn’t she! I mean that in a complimentary way though. They’re great comfort reads – short and sweet.

  4. I love the whole Hamish series! I started reading them about 8 years ago and am looking forward to the next volumn due in early 2011. I discovered there was a TV series made based on the books but I resisted watching it because I saw a picture of Robert Carlyle on the DVD cover and figured they had changed Hamish so much (he is physically so different than the character as described in the book) that I would not like it. What a mistake!! It is one of my all-time favorite series! I watched the first two series and had to wait a while for the third because it wasn’t available here in the states till it’s tenth anniversary. I fell in love with Hamish, Robert Carlyle, and Scotland. After watching the TV series I reread the whole book series. So many little details in the books were mentioned in the TV series! I have now watched almost everything Mr. Carlyle has performed in and my first overseas trip was a two week vacation in 2008 traveling around Scotland, including an overnight stay in Plockton, where Hamish was filmed. What fun! I highly recommend both the books and the TV series, and I plan to visit the UK again.

    • Hi Linda. I loved the TV series too, and was crossing my fingers that the books would be as good. I’ve only read one, but loved that too. Glad you had a good time in Scotland.

  5. I honestly dont know how she does it, I mean really there are just so many books. I am not sure why I havent tried one of the Hamish Macbeth stories but they havent appealed like Agatha’s do. I would say I would try and start them but I might get addicted to those too and then I would be in trouble. The first four of her Edwardian murder mysteries recently arrived so thats another seies I am going to get addicted to I can just tell.

  6. I actually preferred Agatha Raisin, but like both series. I wonder why they didn’t make a TV series of both.
    Ann

  7. Pingback: Cuddle up with a cosy mystery « Gaskella

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