There are few places in the literary world that I enjoy visiting more than Lochdubh in the Scottish Highlands. The village is home to quirky characters, including the affable, bordering on lazy, village policeman, Hamish Macbeth. Like Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, he rarely has to leave his idyllic hamlet for murder to find him.
During the course of an investigation, you can usually count on the locals to assist Hamish. Over the years, Beaton has created some wonderfully eccentric and quite Highland worthy neighbors for the local bobby.
Then there are Hamish’s women. Throughout the series his one true love is the beautiful, though cold, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, daughter of a wealthy Englishman who owns the local hotel. Quite a few women have fallen for the lanky redheaded policeman over the years to varying degrees of failure.
As to this mystery in particular, Death of a Chimney Sweep, as most in the series, does not waste time in killing off the titular victim. In this case it becomes apparent that the poor chimney sweep, Pete Ray, was murdered because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The intended victim, Captain Henry Davenport, was found stuffed up his own chimney. In case you are fearful I have already said too much, the same information is on the inside flap of the book. Capt.Davenport had made quite a few enemies before moving to the village of Drim. Hamish is certain it must be an outsider who committed the crimes, though a few locals have motives as well. As usual, Hamish’s investigation takes him all over the highlands and even into bustling Edinburgh.
This entry into the series was not Beaton’s best. Though not even close to the worst, it did at times feel like the plot was drawn out to fit a page count. Still, any time spent with Hamish is usually time well spent. If you have not read the series before, I recommend starting with Death of a Gossip or, better still, Death of a Cad– the first and the second books in the series respectively. Though any outing featuring Hamish Macbeth will give you enough information to bring you up to speed, following all the wonderful residents of Lochdubh from the beginning is a wonderful experience.