Scottish Police Sergeant Hamish Macbeth is viewed by his superiors all the way up the chain to Inverness, with equal parts admiration for his unorthodox methods of bringing culprits to justice, disdain for his lack of ambition in doing so, and jealousy for attracting front-page stories, usually reported by beautiful women. Hamish enjoys the company of the lovely reporters, but cleverly shifts the publicity to others in his attempt to stay under the radar of the modernized police methods from on high.
"[S]tir up the fireplace coals in this reluctant spring, curl up in your favorite chair, and prepare yourself to enjoy DEATH OF YESTERDAY."
Perhaps it is his reluctance to move up the ranks to the urban police force that most disturbs the bosses. He lives contentedly in his humble little station in Lochdubh, with his cat and dog and his lazy constable, Dick Fraser. Hamish is a handsome Highlander lad of the northern lochs and fens, content to stroll their banks for trout with his wildcat Sonsie and his dog Lugs, keeping the peace in his own way.
When an unpleasant English woman, seeking adventure through a summer job in a shirt factory in the remote village of Cnothan, gets drunk in a local pub and has her sketchbook stolen, she is referred to Hamish. She suspects that she was drugged, but after taking her complaint, he dismisses it as nothing for police work. When she turns up dead and the missing sketchbook appears to be at the heart of the crime, the city police brass descend on the crime scene. And when another person associated with the shirt factory turns up dead, a serial killer is suspected. The tight-lipped local villagers depend on the factory for their jobs; in the Highland tradition of “keeping themselves to themselves,” they close ranks against the city coppers. That leaves Hamish in charge of the investigation since he understands their local idiom, thick Scottish burr and clannish ways.
Hamish’s old-school approach to gumshoe police work led to a television series that aired on BBC Scotland in the '90s. Author M.C. Beaton has produced some of the coziest of cozies over the years, including the colorful Agatha Raisin and Edwardian Mystery series. Her wildly popular books are often short on plot but clever on the telling. You have so much fun watching Hamish’s clueless bungling of every romantic possibility and getting to know the denizens of Lochdubh that “whodunit” scarcely matters.
So stir up the fireplace coals in this reluctant spring, curl up in your favorite chair, and prepare yourself to enjoy DEATH OF YESTERDAY.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on April 5, 2013