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by M. C. Beaton
W.F. Howes, January 2005
Abridged audiobook pages
ISBN: 1845053273

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Audio book available from http://www.ukaudiobooks.co.uk/

Whilst familiar with the Hamish Macbeth television series of a few years ago, which gloried as much in the scenery of Scotland as in the mystery at hand, I was aware from other readers that the series by MC Beaton on which it was based was a little different. It was therefore with some interest that I settled down to listen to DEATH OF A PRANKSTER, narrated by Davina Porter.

DEATH OF A PRANKSTER is a variation of the traditional country house murder mystery. Ageing millionaire Arthur Trent, a notorious prankster, invites his closest relatives to visit him on his Scottish estate before he dies. The ensemble includes his two unmarried sisters, his son Charles and his actress girlfriend, and his brother Gerald with his greedy second wife Jan, and the son from her first marriage, Paul, who bizarrely chooses to bring along a colleague with newly pink hair as a sort of first date.

The party arrive to a snowy scene which soon intensifies making it almost impossible to leave. And once patently healthy Arthur starts his usual round of pranks involving clockwork bats, items balanced over doors, and even a fake corpse, leaving is a very attractive idea.

It's certainly no joke when Hamish receives a call to say there has been a murder at the house, but knowing Arthur's track record, he takes a little convincing. When a second death ensues, Hamish sets out to investigate further in the local community as well as considering the suspects on hand.

The Hamish of this novel, as narrated, is indeed a very different animal from that of the television series, in fact without recognising his name and that of the village of Loch Dubh, I doubt I would have connected the two. Here is much more laid back and slower of speech, a less assertive soul who doesn't really assume the role of primary character in the story, until perhaps later on in the tale. This is partly due to the other strong characters present, and the amount of time given in particular to the younger house guests, without whom the novel would have had less of a contemporary feel.

I enjoyed the plot and the conclusion was surprising. For anyone like myself who had wondered if the books would be too reminiscent of the series, or perhaps too different, I would recommend trying the audio version of DEATH OF A PRANKSTER to see whether the originals appeal.

Reviewed by Bridget Bolton, July 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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