Sunday, September 25, 2016

You Only Die Once

Beaton, MC, 2017, Death Of A Ghost:, ISBN hardback 978-1-4555-5830-8, e-book 978-1-4555-5828-5, audiobook 978-1-4789-0248-5, US $26, $13.99, $32.48 respectively.

The title kind of gives it away. There wouldn't be a ghostly death in this book. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth mystery series doesn't have a whiff of the supernatural in it, unless you count "Highland telepathy," which is actually a form of intuition.

The latest installment about the unambitious and easy-going Highland detective is as entertaining as ever. The village of Lochdubh is lucky to have the smartest detective in Scotland. Following the twists of this plot is like trying to wrestle an alligator (without the possibility of being eaten). If it wasn't for Macbeth, it's very likely that no crime would ever be solved in the Highlands. Yet he stays in his quaint tiny village, taking his dogs with him almost everywhere, fishing and loafing whenever possible, and keeping his head down. This is not easy, given the crowd of busybodies and disreputable characters surrounding him, and the screwups at the police station in the "big city" of Strathbane.

The titles of these books follow a very strict formula. However, the stories themselves are quite inventive. In this case, a disappearing ghost is replaced by a dead professor, convincing evidence of recent smuggling activity, and more deaths. Not to mention attempted murders. The book is a page turner. Even right before the end you still don't know how everything is going to come out. Spoiler alert: Macbeth is still alive on the last page.

One nice thing about this series is that Macbeth actually has a life. Things happen to him, romantically and in other ways, that have consequences. If you want to observe the unfolding of his life, it would be best to start at the beginning of the series. However, the murder mysteries themselves are completely independent of one another and you can jump right in with Death of a Ghost and enjoy it thoroughly. I also like how comfortable the author is with Highland life. Things are not explained for an American audience, but it is not difficult to pick up on slang and culture from context. One last thing. If you buy this book and like it, there are 31 more that you can be sure you will like as well. And they are still coming out regularly. A good and prolific author is a treasure.

Out in February, 2017.

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