Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Hamish Macbeth Mysteries by M. C. Beaton

Recently I discovered the cozy mysteries of M. C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series, set in Lochdubh, a small fishing village in the Highlands of Scotland.
I found the books, while browsing in my favorite used bookstore in Midtown, Sacramento, Time Tested Books. There were five altogether, and, after buying two, and then two more, and then the last one, I'm completely hooked.

These are the five. The proprietor of the store assures me there may be more in the back room. But I clearly see that once those run out, I'm going to have to go online and find even more.

What is so special about these books? Well, two factors right off: I love cozies, and these are well written cozies. And I love books set in far away places. These mysteries leave you with a feeling that you've had a free trip to the Highlands.

But there are writerly reasons I am enamored of this series as well:

 First, the characters: Hamish Macbeth is the lanky, endearing police constable who loves Lochdubh and has no ambition to be promoted to the larger town of Strathbane, where his nemesis, Chief Inspector Blair, does harbor ambitions and constantly chafes at Hamish's success at solving crimes

in the area. Hamish himself is unorthodox in his approach but has strong integrity and empathy for his fellow villagers. He loves dogs, checks in with older people to see how they are doing, and yet is relentless and quick witted in the pursuit of justice. But all the villagers are nicely drawn as well, with just the right, minimalist brushstrokes that fix them clearly in your mind.

Then there is the plot — each book is a great puzzle to solve. Every single element of storytelling drives the plot forward, and Beaton is a master of tweaking interest and suspense with false leads and true ones, side stories, and the unexpected, until she brings you to an ending that is inevitable but not predictable.

The setting is superb. Beaton manages to give the landscape such texture and atmosphere that it becomes a character in its own right. Lochdubh is so far north that summer gets little darkness and winter gets little light. Storms rage even in late spring and early fall, followed by surprisingly mild days until the next shrieking winds descend with buckets of rain. Mists rise, swirl, and disperse. Clouds hover and cover. The village has a couple of hotels, a restaurant, a bar, a general store run by an Indian named Patel, an elementary school so small its students are in danger of being bussed to a larger district, a police department with one constable (Macbeth) who lives in part of the police station. Such a locale colors the lives of the people, and by the time you put down the book, it's easy to feel you've had your free trip to a remote village in the Highlands.

There is wonderful humor in the way Beaton tells these tales. Even with mayhem on the loose, it's hard not to snicker and chuckle as characters enter and exit with their little moment of drama. And while this series has a progression in the lives and interactions of the characters—especially the star-crossed romance between Hamish and Priscilla Halburton-Smyth—each mystery is a satisfying stand-alone read. (I didn't read these five in order, as I wasn't sure what the order was, and that didn't spoil my enjoyment one bit.)

You can see all of the books in the series at Beaton's website HERE.

But, oh, oh, oh: dreadful question to consider: What am I to do when this series runs out?

How about you? Do you have a series you are absolutely hooked on? (Recommendations, please — especially if it is a mystery series.) And, what do you do when you get to the last read in the series? Start over? Look for a new one?


Natalie Aguirre said...

Sounds like a great series. Good characters and an interesting setting make mysteries even better. I may check this one out. Thanks.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Natalie. Thanks for stopping by. What's especially nice about this series is that there are a lot of mysteries to pursue, and Beaton doesn't seem to grow stale. I've read these five, and they all held up well without feeling redundant. I hope you do check them out.

Mirka Breen said...

Oooh, I love cozies, too. The very fact that murderous occurrences can be called "cozies" is delicious. How "vedy British," even when set outside of the isles.

Tanya Lynne Reimer said...

Enjoy the series! Wonderful when we find a gem!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Mirka, thanks for stopping by. I think you're right about cozies being "vedy British." An Agatha Christie mystery is the definitive cozy.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Tanya. I so agree. Right now I'm hooked on mysteries (have been, actually, for some time), so it's a real pleasure to stumble on an author I didn't know about. I'm so intrigued by the WAY she puts these mysteries together — a learning experience for me, even while a pleasurable reading experience.

Lydia Kang said...

I'm terrible with series! I tend to read the first and then move to another series. That's bad, right?

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Goodness, Lydia, I don't know why that would be bad. I used to get into favorite authors in the "pre" series era. I'd like a book and look for more by the author. And usually they weren't writing series. (Well, I guess Nancy Drew was an exception, although we know now that there were multiple authors.) For the most part I think series became popular in the last 20 years or so. I've only recently gotten into them. Thanks for stopping by, BTW. You have so many books coming out, it's wonderful that you take the time to post and visit. Have a great week.

Kate Larkindale said...

I very rarely read series. I'm always frustrated when I read something then realize toward the end that it must be part of a series because there isn't enough book left to finish the story. Then I have to wait years for the next books to come out so I can find out how it all ends.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Kate. I hadn't thought of it that way. Usually by the time I discover a series, it's already been out a while, and I end up going back to earlier mysteries in the series. But you make a good point. That can be frustrating indeed.

Rachna Chhabria said...

These books sound nice. I'll look them up online. I was hooked onto Potter series and House of Night and ofcourse Hunger Games.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Rachna, I read the first of the Potter series and I read Hunger Games. Both compelling reads for different reasons. I haven't read House of Night. I'll check that out.