Rated Reads

Death of a Liar: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery

by M.C. Beaton

Rated: Mild

I attend church with a woman who is a native of Scotland. She knows that I enjoy writers from the U.K. and will make suggestions to me from time to time. In the summer of 2013, she recommended a series of books about a policeman (Hamish Macbeth) in the Highlands of Scotland who solves murders via unorthodox methods. The first book was published in 1985, and this is the 31st volume in the series.

Over the years, a faint pattern has emerged in how Hamish works toward discovering the solution to the death(s) in each book. There is a certain core of characters that he always either consults or has some kind of interaction with during the course of his investigations. Although this sounds like it would make the books rather cookie-cutter, nothing could be further from the truth. In this series, the anticipation of waiting to see how each person will contribute is a big part of the fun for the reader.

This episode sees the death of a woman in a small community who has a history of telling tall tales, so when she calls the police for help (for real), she is ignored and later found dead. Shortly thereafter, other bodies turn up, and it is up to Police Sergeant Hamish Macbeth to figure out how all of the tiny little threads weave together to lead to the killer.

Meanwhile, Hamish’s typically unmotivated constable has designs on a woman who may be involved, creating more situations that Macbeth needs to deal with along the way. These activities ignite the interest of his police superiors in Strathbane, and, once again, he finds that his comfortable little police station in his beloved Lochdubh (pronounced Lock-doo) is being threatened with closure.

This entire series is a darkly comic exaggeration of life in the far north of Scotland. Even though there are plenty of individuals who show up in every tale, and each one plays generally the same role, these mysteries are very, very well done. The writing is superb, and the reader quickly learns that she or he cannot simply skim the pages; everything must be read carefully to locate the pertinent clues that point toward the solution.

Rated: Mild. Scattered occurrences of foul language, some violence, some sexual innuendo. Overall, the entire series is Mild, with a few Moderate books in the mix.

— Reviewed by Craig Smith

Craig Smith is chief medical officer of Tacoma Cat Hospital. In addition to providing book reviews on Rated Reads, he podcasts about feline health issues through iTunes and www.tacomacat.com.

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  • Death of a Liar: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery
  • by M.C. Beaton
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: