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Death of a Valentine - A Hamish Macbeth Mystery by MC Beaton

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Death of a Valentine by MC Beaton

I sat down on a snowy day to read the latest offering from the prolific British writer M.C. Beaton aka Marion Chesney, her real name. She has also written many other books, “bodice rippers”, under pseudonyms Sarah Chester, Helen Crampton, Ann Fairfax, Marion Gibbons, Jennie Tremaine and Charlotte Ward – she is a veritable industry. She has given up her Edwardian series featuring Lady Rose Summer to concentrate on her Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth mystery novels.

I admit that I am one of her fans – there are a lot of us – readers who hate to acknowledge how much we look forward to each new novel. They are far from literary, but they are always entertaining – never politically correct, and guaranteed to be good for a laugh. I save them for a dreary day when I especially need a lift.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day is Death of a Valentine – A Hamish Macbeth Mystery. Hamish Macbeth is the local policeman in the small Highland town of Lochdubh, and he is in danger of becoming an old bachelor in spite of a few love affairs. He is red-headed, lanky and loves his pets and his job in that order. He is very happy in his home attached to the police station with its old fashioned blue light outside. There is something about him that women find attractive, although he is largely unaware of it himself. Hamish has thought of marriage – he was desperately in love with Priscilla Haliburton-Smyth, the daughter of the lord of the manor, but they never succeeded in being in the mood for marriage at the same time. In earlier novels the journalist Elspeth Grant almost did the trick, but Hamish still remained happily (most of the time) single.

But wait! This book opens with Hamish at the altar – about to be married to someone named Josie Mc Sween! Who is she, and how did this come about?

Well, it is all revealed in the rest of the novel as we are taken back to Valentine’s Day, a year earlier. A day of expectations. Annie Flemming is at home waiting for the post and the Valentine’s cards that will come to her this day – one with fatal results. Annie’s death becomes the Valentine’s Day Murder – a case for Hamish Macbeth and his new constable, Josie McSween. Annie is a beautiful young woman who lives at home with her parents who adore and protect her. Annie, however, is not what she at first seems to be – she has been involved in some rather unsavory relationships that have now caught up with her – and that Hamish will spend his time uncovering in order to solve this case.

Josie McSween meanwhile is having a hard time adjusting to village policing, as Hamish says “Oh, we don’t arrest anyone up here if we can possibly avoid it.” Josie has her mind set on securing Hamish as her husband – and nothing is going to get in her way.

I’ve always wanted to be at a wedding where there is a dramatic response to the question “If any amongst you know of any reason why this man and woman should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now, or forever hold your peace.” As this is being said “Hamish Macbeth raised his eyes to the old breams of the church roof and murmured desperately the old soldier’s prayer. “Dear God, if there is a God, get me out of this!”” Will someone save him? You’ll have to read the book to find out! Happy Valentine’s Day.

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