In a world filled with chaos and uncertainty, M.C. Beaton offers a new adventure in the Hamish Macbeth mystery series, a welcome and reliable respite. Sergeant Hamish Macbeth is an iconic figure, clinging to his patch in the small village of Lochdubh in Sutherland in the northwest of Scotland, mightily resisting the trend of concentrating police services in the city. Hamish has a number of successful cases but will do anything to avoid publicity and the notice of his superiors in Strathbane. Macbeth has his own particular method of solving crime and it serves him well, from petty nuisances, drunks, thefts, domestic disputes to murder. His patch is filled with colorful and eccentric characters, most of them harmless, some of them deadly.
Along with his usual roster of cases, Macbeth chronically lacks the right woman to keep him company. It's not unusual for the lanky, red-haired officer to fantasize about the ones who got away--his former fiancé, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, or Elspeth Grant, once a local reporter but now on the news in Glasgow. Hamish has a way of losing his head when romance is afoot, and frequently what seems the perfect match has frightening consequences in a mate. Another quirk: his pets. Hamish's beloved wild cat, Sonsie, has fled to the wilderness, replaced by a tiny poodle, Sally, as a companion to dog Lugs. But Sonsie has been on his mind of late, a yearning akin to his romances, if truth be told.
Macbeth gets word of an exceptionally rude man who is insulting everyone he meets. Newly settled in Cnothan (a "sour" village, as Hamish describes it), the town is a fitting place for surly Paul English, who claims, "I speak as I find." Accompanied by assistant Constable Charlie Carter, the men quickly become the beneficiaries of English's insults as well, proving "nobody loves an honest man." An unhappy little drama plays out between English and his newly-hired housekeeper, an ancient woman too old for such employment. Eventually, given the number of rude incidents perpetrated by the dour man, Hamish decides to arrest him as a public nuisance. As the chaos around English continues, Hamish is struck by the certainty that "there's death in the air."
To be sure, death has tarried along the way, a missing person found in the bogs, potentially a homicide. Hamish begins his customary collection of clues and interviews, the drama expanding to include yet another killing. Given the escalating activity, Hamish attracts the attention of his nemesis, Detective Chief Inspector Blair. Blair has become dangerously obsessed with exposing Macbeth as a fraud and a fool. With every opportunity, Blair sweeps in to take over the case and the glory, impressing their boss, Superintendent Daviot. While Blair lurks nearby, Macbeth is further bedeviled by the loss of candidates to assist on his cases. After Constable Charlie Carter retires, Hamish faces a revolving door of possibilities, none willing to stay. Hamish tackles the problem as best he can, intent on catching the killer with a plan he has devised.
It is literally impossible to describe the world of Hamish Macbeth, a clever if offbeat policeman who patrols his area with gusto, determined to protect the local folks and maintain his spot far from Strathbane. Beaton has created a unique character in a setting inhabited by folks who chatter in the language of their forbears, hold grudges, gossip, and demand their constable keep them safe from random crooks and the occasional murderer. At the center of it all is flame-haired Hamish Macbeth, a hopeless romantic in search of love, happiest surrounded by his pets and on the trail of anyone who dares threaten those in his care. It's a lovely series, beautifully written and uniquely satisfying, each adventure a treat.