Review

Death of a Kingfisher: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery

by M. C. Beaton

Hamish Macbeth, the laid-back, lone constable of the Scotlish village of Lochdubh, finds himself having to share his modest quarters behind the jail with Dick Fraser, yet another deadbeat deputy foisted on him by Lt. Blair, his supervisor from the Strathbane headquarters. Blair often foists off a copper who has fallen from grace to Hamish because crime in this bucolic posting seldom consists of more than ticketing a speeder or rousting a drunk from a local pub. Hamish spends more time fishing and hiking through the heather than he does solving crimes. Yet, when a real crime crops up, he usually outsmarts Blair with his offbeat methods of deduction. 

"With a recurring cast of colorful characters filling out the rustic tapestry of Hamish’s odd-ball life, fans still seek out copies as soon as they hit the stores." 

Hamish drags Dick, who would rather hang out in the local pub, on a call to the quaint village of Braikie. Crotchety Mrs. Colechester claims that a new tourist attraction in the wilderness preserve next to her secluded cottage is disturbing her peace, what with all the tour buses and loudspeaker announcements. Mary Leinster, a winsome and charming lassie, is drawing droves of tourists to The Fairy Glen, a quiet pond surrounding a forest containing rare plants and animals. Mary has gotten herself elected to the town council, so fighting city hall has come to a dead end. Mrs. Colchester has called the law.  

The Fairy Glen’s most popular attraction is a beautiful kingfisher that can be seen diving into the pool to catch fish for his family. The brochure features the bird, and also claims that fairies can be seen at night in the glen. The country folk still believe in them, claiming to see lights in the forest, even putting out plates of sweets for them to ward off evil. Although Hamish is as susceptible to the smile of a beautiful woman as the next man, he suspects that some theatrics are involved in the so-called fairy lights in the forest. Business is booming, gift shops and restaurants are thriving, and the town council is not to be swayed by the town crank.

Hamish and Dick ask around in the village, hike through the glen, and promise to sort things out. When a hysterical Mary calls him the next day, claiming a murder has taken place, Hamish calls Strathbane HQ for investigators, who, followed by television crews and reporters, rush to Braike, only to find that Mary’s “murder” is of the storied kingfisher. His lifeless body has been strung from a branch overhanging the pond with a fishing line, and the nest containing the baby birds has been destroyed. The city detectives are not stirred by the sad event and return to the city, leaving Hamish looking like a fool and facing reporters. 

When Mrs. Colchester, the prime suspect in the death of the kingfisher, is fiendishly murdered, the case takes a serious turn. Within days, more bodies start turning up, and Hamish’s idyllic corner of the world suddenly becomes the setting for a serial killer. His lazy new deputy’s talent for picking up information overhead in the local shops and pubs becomes valuable in solving the crime wave. 

Hamish Macbeth first appeared in 1985 in DEATH OF A GOSSIP, the first of 27 mysteries, all beginning with “Death of…” .  This might lead one to believe that all is not as bucolic and peaceful as it would seem in the sleepy little village of Lochdubh. 

With a recurring cast of colorful characters filling out the rustic tapestry of Hamish’s odd-ball life, fans still seek out copies as soon as they hit the stores. Hamish’s disastrous love life is an essential element of the books, and his old girlfriends either wind up married to someone bold enough to pop the question, or they get killed off. His clumsy attempts at romance are an endearing element that leaves the reluctant bachelor to live his lonely life, never quite ready to commit. 

Reviewed by Roz Shea on March 2, 2012

Death of a Kingfisher: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery
by M. C. Beaton

  • Publication Date: February 22, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 0446547360
  • ISBN-13: 9780446547369