Death of a Gentle Lady is the newest Hamish Macbeth mystery by bestselling author M.C. Beaton. Hamish is the local policeman for the small Scottish Highlands town of Lochdubh, or black lake. Lochdubh is small enough that Hamish is the entire police force for the town, and he lives in the police station. Sleepy town or not, his fellow townspeople are delightfully quirky, and Hamish appears to be quirkier still. Hamish lives with his dog and “domesticated” wild cat, plus he attracts an ex-fiancée and an ex-girlfriend, even as he is planning to marry.
I am appalled that I haven’t read any of the books in this series before, especially because I adore mysteries set in the UK and because there have been 22 novels by M.C. Beaton in the Hamish Macbeth series. While the newest book in the series, Death of a Gentle Lady picks up on threads that come out of previous novels, it is a wonderful stand-alone novel as well. Additionally, once you’ve enjoyed the detecting of Hamish Macbeth, you have a built-in book list to work through! Sometimes finding a series belatedly works out quite well.
The “Gentle Lady” in the title of Death of a Gentle Lady is a misnomer – the victims are not particularly gentle. Mrs. Gentle is a relative newcomer to the small town of Lochdubh, and she has already made quite an impact. Mrs. Gentle inhabits the “Folly”, a small castle built on a cliff on the Scottish coast. She is a perfect gentlewoman to the townspeople, but she is quite rude to Hamish when he sees through her facade, to the point of suggesting to his supervisor that Hamish should be removed from his post. After seeing Mrs. Gentle berate her maid, Hamish offers to help Ayesha with her visa. The offer of help turns into an marriage proposal, which would help both of them – Ayesha would have a British passport and could escape from Mrs. Gentle’s clutches and Hamish would be able to keep his police station.
Lochdubh is no longer a sleepy village when there are two deaths in a matter of days, police detectives visit to investigate the murders, and there are threats against the life of Hamish Macbeth. One wonders why the Superintendent had been considering closing the police station in Lochdubh once the body count rises – though perhaps the only crime in Lochdubh is murder! The interactions between the various police officers, Hamish’s ex-girlfriends, and the villagers are incredibly engaging. The characters in Death of a Gentle Lady are multi-faceted and show a freshness that is not frequently found in a series with this many books.
M.C. Beaton has created a wonderful mystery that leaves readers flipping back through the pages looking for the clues they missed. These are the best mysteries – the kind that are a surprise, and yet you kick yourself for not figuring out the clues that the author has left. I really enjoyed Death of a Gentle Lady, and recommend picking up a copy, and then reading the earlier books as well!