Hamish Macbeth is back in M. C. Beaton’s latest in the series, Death of a Policeman. Fans of the series can be assured of nonstop action and intrigue, and a story that spans almost a year. Get ready to settle down and devote time to reading this book cover to cover.
Hamish is now a Police Sergeant and has an assistant called Dick. Dick is quite the domestic in the style of Clarry and Willie Lamont. He bakes scones, creates gourmet meals from scratch and packs a picnic hamper whenever they are going somewhere in the Land Rover. The old Lochdubh police station is a cozy home to him, much to Hamish’s chagrin.
Meanwhile, there is a massive drive to close down police stations across Scotland. Detective Blair is up to his usual shenanigans and sends a cop to spy over Hamish and collect evidence of his incompetence.
The wily fisherman Archie soon spots the new cop who is posing as a tourist. He loyally notifies Hamish and they lead him on, sending him on a wild goose chase to a secluded beach. The plan backfires when the cop, Cyril Sessions, is shot dead. The whole Strathbane police machinery descends on the scene and the hunt is on.
Hetty is a spinster librarian in the village of Braikie who has come on to Hamish several times. She claims that Cyril had been pumping her for some dirt on Hamish. Blair is suspended for spying. Jimmy Anderson is in charge and Hamish is off on his tangential pursuits. He comes across a wealthy suspect who is the pillar of society but Super Daviot refuses to hear a word against him.
Dick falls in love with Hetty’s young assistant and tries to woo her. Elspeth and Priscilla make a very short appearance. Autumn changes to a bitter winter, and spring beckons but the case is no closer to being solved. Hamish continues to insist on his gut feelings, and struggles to keep the police station from being closed.
It is hard to go into details without revealing many spoilers. But our red haired hero will triumph in the end. There is not a lot of ‘Lochdubh’ color in this book. The usual suspects – the Currie sisters, Angus the seer, Willie, Mr. Johnson – don’t have a considerable role in the story. Hamish Macbeth is a bit bothered by his highly domesticated assistant and has very few ‘fried’ dinners of fish from the freezer.
Death of a Policeman is definitely a later book in the series, and is familiar ground for Hamish Macbeth fans. There are points in the book where I felt that we might see some sort of change in Hamish’s aspirations. If that is true, Death of a Policeman might very well turn out to be a transitional book. Who knows, we may come across Detective Macbeth in some future installment of the series. The crime rate in scenic Lochdubh and Sutherland is high enough!
Overall Death of a Policeman is a must read for Hamish Macbeth fans. And anyone who likes the British mystery genre. I am eagerly waiting for the next one from M.C. Beaton!