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by M. C. Beaton
Mysterious Press, February 2004
256 pages
ISBN: 0892967889

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Hamish Macbeth is the police officer happily assigned to the remote village of Lochdub in the Scottish Highlands. Everyone knows each other in the small villages there, but when poison pen letters begin to be delivered to people in town, Hamish's police instincts begin to worry him. Even though all of the letters so far have incorrect information, he's certain that if the letters continue the writer might hit on a truth - and then there'll be trouble.

At the same time, Hamish's last girlfriend, who now lives in London, has inflamed the imagination of her friend Jenny Ogilvie with stories of the red-headed policeman of the Highlands. Jenny, the type of young woman up for any bit of fun, sets her cap at Hamish, if only to tweak the nose of her friend. Jenny gets some time off of her job and sets out for Lochdub, looking for adventure and love.

Just as Jenny arrives in Lochdub, the body of the quiet postmistress is found in her room hanging by a rope, with one of the poison pen letters by her feet. But in Hamish's clear eyes, and to the anger of his superiors, it's clear that the crime scene was set up to look like a suicide, but it really isn't. Before long Hamish figures out who the poison pen letter writer must be, but when he goes to confront the woman she's already dead in her bed, stabbed numerous times.

Too preoccupied with the murders, and naturally blinded to his attractiveness to the women around him, Hamish neglects to respond to the lovely Jenny's advances. Not to be dismissed, Jenny decides to solve the small village's murders herself. How better a way to get the full attention of Hamish Macbeth?

This the latest in the series of Hamish Macbeth mysteries by author M. C. Beaton (also the writer of another series about the formidable Agatha Raisin). She has written yet another delightful, rollicking murder mystery. Beaton has filled Lochdub, and its neighboring village Braikie, with remarkable characters, all with their own stories and peculiarities who contribute to the flavor of this Scottish Highlands story.

From the rector's wife, who shrugs off a ridiculous poison letter accusing her of an affair with Hamish, to the meek secretary of the school, to the nearby town's detective who has an affection for the taste of whiskey and a seemingly hollow leg to go with it, to a female newspaper reporter, a smart and no-nonsense woman who Hamish, finally, can't help but notice, all help make this a great read.

There's just enough good, solid police work to keep the story from falling into farce. The dangers menacing the characters from both human and the wild weather and rugged terrain of the Scottish highlands all contribute to keep the readers highly entertained.

DEATH OF A POISON PEN is an old-fashioned cozy, filled with an appealing lead, fascinating secondary characters, and an interesting location, all mixed in with an intelligent story line. It all makes for a wonderful adventure. It's a classic mystery and every page is enjoyable. But here's a warning for readers too. Once you read one Hamish Macbeth mystery you'll want to collect and read all of them!

Reviewed by Sharon Katz, January 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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