Hamish Macbeth’s 30th case is another success

Hamish Macbeth has an iPad and an espresso machine . But don’t worry, he still doesn’t have a girlfriend.

On his 30th outing, we find the laconic Highland detective happy as ever with his pet cat and dog in his beloved Lochdubh. But like Midsomer Murders, it is not long before the bodies begin to pile up.

A serial liar has been killed, sparking off an investigation that soon has Hamish running for his life and the reader guessing.

The plot twists and turns as Hamish chases down an international drug ring via a cult Christian sect, dodgy crematorium and ‘fairy ring’.

Fans of the Hamish Macbeth series will not be disappointed with the murder mystery, but it is the characterisation that provides the sharpest comedy and commentary on modern life.

MC Beaton does not pull her punches. She attacks misguided animal rights protesters, bureaucratic policeman and society’s neglect of the elderly. As the most borrowed author in the UK she can afford to say what she likes – and she does.

She is particularly harsh on the southerners who settle in the Scotland and then flee when their romantic ideals are not fulfilled. From time to time English folk come to settle here, but you know how it is, if the weather doesn’t chase them off, the drink will get them,’ she writes.

MC Beaton may have chosen a beautiful place and gentle character but she sees through any sentimentality about Scotland – perhaps because she lived in Sutherland herself before moving down south.

‘The far north of Scotland could come as a shock to incomers,’ she writes. ‘A lot of people could not grasp the idea that the people in the Highlands were a different race from the lowlanders.

‘Certainly most were rightly famous for courtesy and hospitality. But there were other types: malicious, petty, and vengeful.’

There is a dark edge to this book. Unlike most popular depictions of the Highlands it is not sunny all the time, in fact it is more likely to be raining and not everyone is friendly. There are dead bodies on toilets, flying coffins, class A drugs and plenty of allusions to sex.

An old flame, the journalist Elspeth Grant, pops up while Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, the posh hotelier’s daughter who broke Hamish’s heart, is never far away.

There is also a beautiful Polish baker and a sexy forensic scientist. There are plenty of dates and love interest loose ends to be wrapped up.

Although known as the local lothario, poor Hamish never quite gets it right with women, which is lucky because while Beaton is cutting about everyone else, it is clear there is one character she adores. And when an author loves her hero that much it is difficult not be swept along.

[review rating=”5″ align = “left”]