DEATH OF A DUSTMAN by M. C. Beaton
A HAMISH MACBETH MYSTERY
Mysterious Press, March 2001
Back when he was just a dustman, Fergus Macleod earned plenty of enemies in Lochdubh, Scotland. When Freda Fleming, council Officer for the Environment decided to make Lochdubh green and promoted him to Environmental Officer, things got completely out of hand. Not only did Fergus drink, he applied the recycling rules with grim but unequal fervor, and beat his wife. Plenty of the residents of Lochdubh had reason to wish Fergus dead. The only question was, which one actually killed him?
Police Sergeant Hamish Macbeth, with his assistant, Clarry, are responsible for determining Fergus's killer. Hamish knows which rocks to turn, but it doesn't take a genius to realize that everyone seems to be lying to him. They can't all be killers, but until he determines why they are lying, Hamish can't get beyond the superficial layer of hatred that the entire village showered on the late dustman. He sticks to his task with grim determination, a determination that is often seen as stupidity, but is anything but.
M. C. Beaton (click here to read BooksForABuck reviews of other novels by this author) has created a small jem of a novel. Hamish Macbeth, with his doomed love for Priscilla, his assistant who bathes only when forced, and plenty of enemies amongst the highers up in his department makes a fine hero. His methodical search for the truth in the midst of a storm of lies appears doomed from the start, but the reader will pull for him nevertheless. Clarry, miscast as a policeman, is another fine and well developed character. Priscilla and Freda Fleming, in contrast, are broad caricatures. In the short space of DEATH OF A DUSTMAN, however, Beaton could only fully realize a small number of characters.
Beaton uses just enough dialect to give the novel a Scottish feel, without putting off the non-Scottish reader. Hamish lives up to any reader's expectations as the taciturn Scott, and the Calvinist sensibilities and grim weather of Scotland form almost a secondary character on their own.
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