Nobody loves an honest man, or that was what police sergeant Hamish Macbeth tried to tell newcomer Paul English.
Paul attended church in Lochdubh. He told the minister, Mr. Wellington, that his sermons were boring. He told tweedy Mrs. Wellington that she was too fat. Angela Brody was told her detective stories were pap for the masses and it was time she wrote literature instead. He accused Hamish of having dyed his fiery red hair. He told Jessie Currie - who repeated all the last words of her twin sister - that she needed psychiatric help.
"I speak as I find", he bragged. Voices saying, "I could kill that man" could be heard from Lochdubh to Cnothan.
And someone did.
Now Hamish is faced with a bewildering array of suspects. And he's lost the services of his clumsy policeman, Charlie, who has resigned from the force after throwing Chief Inspector Blair into the loch. Can Hamish find the killer on his own?
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By An Leughadair on 06-04-18
Least Favourite of the Hamish Macbeth Series
Why did I read it?
I adore the Hamish Macbeth series, and this was the latest edition.
What's it about?
An income arrives in Cnothan, and town on Hamish Macbeth's beat. Paul English considers himself an honest man, but on calling on the incomer to welcome him to the community Charlie, Hamish's constable, lands them both in trouble at headquarters.
Paul English works his way around the communities, spouting his views on the shortcomings of the locals directly to their face, causing hackles to rise.
"I could kill that man," could be heard from Lochdubh to Cnothan. And, so ...
What did I like?
Honestly, the soothing tones of David Monteath were perhaps the only lovely thing about this particular episode of life in Lochdubh.
What didn't I like?
Oh dear. It seemed to me that the author, M.C. Beaton 'phoned it in'. There were so many errors in the book.
(1) Lucia Lament was noted as the daughter of Mr. Ferrari; however, in earlier books, we learn Lucia is a distant relative of Mr. Ferrari brought over from Italy to work in the restaurant in Lochdubh, after Mr. Ferrari's immediate family took over the running of his first restaurant.
(2) Initially, it is said Silas Dunbar's father died when he was two, then, later, it is said his father died 10 years previous. So, either Hamish's new constable is 12 years old, or this is yet another error.
(3) It seems the forensics team of Strathbane has been re-populated with boozy blokes, who I thought had been replaced a few books back.
There are many more inconsistencies like this that regular readers/listeners might pick up on.
How many constables can Hamish get through in one book? The answer: five (5).
Why bring Elspeth back into Sutherland at all? Her contribution to the narrative was negligible, with the low level rivalry between her, and Priscilla for affections of Hamish becoming increasingly tedious in its repetition.
The storylines featuring Colonel Halburton-Smythe, and Chief Inspector Blair were so far beyond believable, and extremely disappointing. Yes, this is fiction, which often strays from reality as it is set in an idyllic version of the highlands, but these narratives were just too far-fetched, and stretched far beyond the known behaviours of these long-term characters formed through the previous 32 books. These tangential stories seemed ill formed, and very ill judged. It's almost like they were padding for the scant murder mystery, which, itself, seemed poorly thought out, and too closely related to other victims, and plots in the series.
There are other disappointments, but I have listed only what I see as the major faults here. Overall, the book felt disjointed, the main narrative was thin, and the side stories not as believable as in the past. At times, the superstitious and supernatural elements felt more real than anything else.
Also, having listened to this audio series in its entirety several times now, I have begun to notice mistakes in the text, e.g. the wrong character having said a line. Unfortunately, this is also true of “Death of an Honest Man” having listened to it three times now.
Would I recommend it?
Honestly, no. Not even to fans of the series. I sincerely hope the next two books in the series, which M.C. Beaton has confirmed she is contracted to write, are not so badly composed as this one. I want a return to the Hamish Macbeth and inhabitants of Lochdubh I have grown to love.
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