Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, April 14, 2017


Death of a Glutton by M. C. Beaton (1993)

This week, many of the Forgotten Books crew are concentrating on small-town cops.  The small town I have chosen is the village of Lochdubh in the West Highlands of Scotland, a " weird twisted countryside of mountain, loch, and moorland where the old gods rode the wind" and where "summer usually only lasts six weeks at the best of times in the far north."  The small-town cop, of course is P. C. Hamish MacBeth, a tall, lean, friendly, red-headed young man with a canny mind and a lazy manner.

"M. C. Beaton" is one of seven names that Scottish author Marion Chesney has used to publish well over a hundred thirty novels, many of them romances.  in the mystery field her series about Hamish Macbeth (thirty-four novels and counting) and Agatha Raisin (twenty-seven novels and counting).  Hamish MacBeth spawned a BBC Scotland television series (1995-1997), in which the producers used the character's name and the Lochdubh name and little else, but was nonetheless very popular.  Agatha Raisin also got the television treatment with a pilot in late 2014, followed by a series in 2016.  Chesney's romance writing has been dropped due the pressures of keeping up with the demand for Hamish MacBeth and Agatha Raisin.

Death of a Glutton is the eighth book in the MacBeth series.  By now the regular characters have been pretty well defined.  Hamish has been assisted in solving murders by the beautiful Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, the woman he had been in love with "had she only known it."  Hamish is determined not to be burned again by Priscilla's charms, no matter how innocently he had been burned.  Priscilla is the daughter of Colonel Halburton-Smythe, who had turned their large home into a hotel when he had lost his money.  The hotel is thriving and Halburton-Smythe had recovered the money lost and then some, but he still kept the hotel open, basking in its glory while letting Priscilla and Mr. Johnson, the former manager of a Lochdubh hotel that had gone bankrupt, do all the scut work.  The bane of Hamish's existence is his immediate superior Detective Chief Inspector Blair, who is happily far away in Spain on vacation as the book begins.

Maria Worth runs a successful (and exclusive) marriage agency -- the Checkmate Singles Club.  Maria has decided to pair eight of her clients and has booked a week for them at Haliburton-Smythe's hotel.  The four men and four women do not seem to agree with Maria's judgement, however, forming different pairs than Maria had intended.  At least they seemed matched.  The fly in the ointment is Maria's partner Peta Gore, who was once a rather nice and attractive person, but has since devolved into an obese, bitter, self-deluded woman determined to us Checkmates to find herself a husband.  Peta is a disgusting and selfish glutton.  Watching her eat is simply disgusting.  Maria had thought she was able to bring her clients to Lochdubh without Peta's knowledge, but Peta appeared at the hotel anyway, accompanied by her young, very beautiful (and very shallow) niece, Crystal.  [SPOILER ALERT:  Peta's the one who's going to be murdered already knew that because of the book's title.

Anyway, before long. every one of the eight clients, as well as Maria, have a reason to kill Peta.  So, too, does Crystal, and so, too, does the hotel's chef, who maliciously cooked up a three day dead wild cat* and fed it to Peta.  As for Peta, she was found in an old quarry, suffocated, with an apple jammed into her mouth.

Death of a Glutton is an enjoyable, witty cozy.  The local characters are well drawn, as is this bus driver, commandeered into driving the eight clients on a tour:  "Like most of the natives, he knew very little of the history of Sutherland, but being a true Highlander, he planned to make it up as he went along."  (And like a true Highlander, his talent for fabrication was extreme.)  "Beaton"/Chesney's Highlands rings true and Hamish's attempts to not have romantic feelings about Priscilla are as entertaining as they are in vain.  All in all, a pleasant wat to spend a few hours.

For more small-town cops and other Forgotten books, visit our fearless leader Patti Abbott at pattinase, where she will have compiled all the links for today's FFBs.  (Of course, when you're talking about small town cops, the first name that comes to mind is that of Bill Crider's Sheriff Dan Rhodes, a series that is unhesitatingly recommended.  I'll be interested to see how many of the FFB crew reviews a Dan Rhodes book today.)

* I read this book on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, I see that Taiwan became the first Asian Country for ban eating cat or dog.  Good for you, Taiwan.


  1. I have dozens of M.C. Beaton mysteries stacked up. Your fine review makes me want to drop everything and read them! Great Choice for "Small Town Sheriff" FFB Day!

  2. Before my eyes could focus properly on the title, I thought it was Death of a Slutton, which riveted my attention and held it even after I realized my mistake. Haven't read Beaton, but if he were to come up with a more titillating title, who could say?