Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Death of a Maid by M. C. Beaton

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Death of a Maid by M. C. Beaton. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Death of a Maid by M. C. Beaton

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

Mysterious Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-89296-010-8 (0892960108)
ISBN-13: 978-0-89296-010-1 (9780892960101)
Publication Date: February 2007
List Price: $23.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): Armed with a bucket and mop, Mrs. Gillespie brings misery into the quiet life of Hamish Macbeth when he wins her maid services in a church raffle. He fears she's more likely to snoop than clean, since rumor has it that she damages more items than she dusts.

Yet Macbeth has more upsetting issues to ponder—his former girlfriend, reporter Elspeth Grant, is back in the village for a holiday with her new boyfriend. Then he gets notice that a TV crew plans a documentary on him. Its airing is sure to get him a promotion and transfer to the city—and Hamish Macbeth would rather be boiled in oil than leave the serenity of Lochdubh.

Though lately Macbeth's seeing the squabbling of seagulls and feeling an ill wind coming. Sure enough, Mrs. Gillespie is soon found dead under suspicious circumstances. And as he investigates the case, Elspeth's presence torments the red-haired bobby and drives him to foolish antics. But what should really preoccupy Macbeth are the town's hidden secrets—ones that will force a killer to lash out in deadly, irrevocable acts …

Review: Hamish Macbeth stumbles upon the body of a local house cleaner in Death of a Maid, an amusing entry in this long-running series by M. C. Beaton.

There's much to be said for a typical English, or in this case Scottish, village mystery. They're comfortable, rather predictable, and if done well, are quite enjoyable. Here, Constable Macbeth of the Scottish Highlands village of Lochdubh investigates the murder of Mrs. Gillespie, a maid whose reputation for gossip far exceeds that of her cleaning abilities. Since most everyone is hiding a secret of some sort, the number of suspects is just about equal to the population of the village.

Macbeth quickly confirms this fact soon after he begins interviewing Mrs. Gillespie's clients. When he meets the dead woman's daughter, he asks, "Do you know of anyone who would wish your mother harm?" Her matter-of-fact reply, "Just about everyone." There's something refreshing in the simplicity of the story and how Macbeth goes about the business of eliminating suspects and building a case against the killer.

Where the story goes astray is in a secondary plot involving attempts on Macbeth's life. No doubt intended by Beaton to be a red herring of sorts to the main plot, it never rings true. Worse, after capturing the culprit who killed Mrs. Gillespie and presumably bringing about an end to the mystery of the Death of a Maid, the book goes on for another 50 or so pages to wrap up the subplot. The author redeems herself, however, in the epilogue with a clever resolution to an unsolved aspect of the case.

Special thanks to Hachette Book Group for providing an ARC of Death of a Maid for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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