Saturday, January 23, 2010
Book Review: Death of a Witch by M.C. Beaton
Death of a Witch
by M.C. Beaton
2009 Grand Central Publishing
Summary (Press Release)
Returning from a vacation, Constable Hamish MacBeth senses a dark cloud of evil hanging over his Scottish village of Lochdubh. Newcomer Catriona Beldame has cast a bewitching spell over the town, causing the local men to visit her cottage at all hours of the night and infuriating the women. Hamish suspects that she is a great danger to the town. Before he can prove that Catriona is truly wicked, she is brutally murdered - and Hamish becomes the prime suspect in the case. The constable will call upon the assistance of a pretty female forensic expert as he attempts to clear his name...and perhaps even find some romance. But when more violence breaks out, loyal Hamish must use all his detective skills to restore peace to his beloved village.
M.C. Beaton explores the idea of how a tight-knit community supports its own and can alienate those it considers outsiders in this 25th addition to her beloved Hamish Macbeth mystery series, set in the beautiful Scottish highlands. And Hamish Macbeth is part of this community, as is evident in his reaction to Catriona Beldame as soon as he hears what is happening in his village upon his return from his Spanish vacation. As he investigates, he learns that Catriona has been selling 'potions' to the men in the village, meant to increase their sexual prowess in the bedroom, but actually has them going to the local physician in search of remedies for swelling and infections. The women of the village want nothing to do with these 'potions' and their distrust of Catriona grows daily. As a group, they effectively shut her out.
When Catriona is brutally murdered, and her house goes up in flames, the villagers mutter about 'witchcraft'. When three more villagers are brutally murdered, pressure is put upon Hamish, now a suspect after being overheard threatening Catriona, to solve the crimes. He calls upon his good friend Elspeth Grant, and the local forensic expert, Lesley Seaton, who also has her sights set upon Hamish. When Hamish's long-time love, Priscilla Haliburton-Smyth, suddenly shows up in town, Hamish is surrounded by women from his past and the ensuing drama provides some very entertaining moments. In a way, this drama provides the background for this book, as it reflects the battle of the sexes going on in the village, where the men are demanding more action in the bedroom while the women want nothing more of the sort, and both are fighting for control over the other. Many embarrassing secrets and things that occur behind closed doors are revealed throughout the investigation that make Hamish look more closely at the village he thought was so perfect.
While this was not my favourite book of the series, it was certainly a light and entertaining read. MC Beaton gives us a mystery that follows the usual formula in that Hamish has to fight Inspector Blair every step of the way, uses unusual methods and sometimes deceptive methods to dig up his clues, introduces us to a series of quirky and very delightful characters, and allows Hamish to solve the mystery without fanfare so that he doesn't get promoted and doesn't have to leave Lochdubh. It is a good addition to the series and as always, I look forward to reading the next book in the series. Will Hamish finally get lucky in love?