“Death of a ghost” by M.C. Beaton – Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads:

There are many ruined castles in Scotland. One such lies outside the village of Drim. Hamish begins to hear reports that this castle is haunted and lights have been seen there at night, but he assumes it’s some children or maybe the local lads going there to smoke pot, or, worse, inject themselves with drugs. Hamish says to his policeman, Charlie ‘Clumsy’ Carson, that they will both spend a night there.

The keening wind explains the ghostly noises, but when Charlie falls through the floor, Hamish finds the body of a dead man propped up in a corner of the cellar. After Charlie is airlifted to the hospital, Chief Detective Inspector Blair arrives to investigate the body, but there is none to be found. Dismissed as a drunk making up stories, Hamish has to find and identify the body and its killer before the “ghost” can strike again.

When the publisher invited me to review M.C. Beaton’s latest Hamish Macbeth mystery I thought “Why not?”  In the 1980s I read the first five of the series and remembered them as light, entertaining, ‘cozy’ police procedural mysteries.  Now, these many years later, the author has penned the 32nd novel featuring Hamish Macbeth and little has changed.  I ask myself is that good or bad?

Macbeth is still on the ‘right side of forty’.  He is still long, lanky, red-headed, and as unambitious as he ever was.  His love of his remote Sutherland village, Lockdubh is still as true as ever.  Detective Chief Inspector Blair is still the bane of Hamish’s life. He eschews female company after having his heart broken by the beautiful Priscilla whom I remember from those early novels and who is STILL in evidence in this one.  He adores his menagerie of animals which includes his dogs, Lugs and Sally, his wildcat, Sonsie, and various hens, sheep, etc.  He likes nothing better than taking his dogs and spending the day fishing in the loch.

Village – Sutherland, Scotland

The problem?  Hamish Macbeth is clever.  That cleverness combined with his Highland instinct/intuition ensures that he invariably solves all the crime that Lochdubh and the surrounding environs has to offer.  He never takes credit for his crime solving though – in fear that he will be promoted out of his beloved village.

“It’s that great loon, Macbeth. He solves cases and lets someone else take the credit because he doesnae want to be promoted and lose his wee station in Lochdubh.”

And this is book #32!   Some things never change.  At times the characters were more like caricatures. Reading M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth is a bit like putting on an old pair of slippers that have the shape of your feet worn into them.  Comfortable, but not exciting.

The writing was, as ever, entertaining.  With many humorous scenes (crossing the line over into farce on several occasions), M.C. Beaton has found her niche and countless readers love her in it.  On the other hand, I found that this ‘sameness’ was just “ho-hum”. I read the book through in its entirety, but I probably won’t read another in this series.

I realize I’m probably in the minority here, but although I can understand why M.C. Beaton is a best-selling novelist, I fear this series has ‘run its course’.

I was invited to read and review this novel by the publisher Hachette/Grand Central Publishing; I received a digital copy from NetGalley on their invitation.

Here are a few Scottish slang words that I found (and enjoyed) in this novel:

drookit (adj.) – extremely wet, drenched, soaked with rain

stramash (n.) – an uproar, disturbance, racket

scunner (n.) – a strong dislike, irritating dislike


M.C. Beaton (a.k.a.Marion Chesney) was born in Glasgow, Scotland.
She began her writing career by authoring Regency romances. After she had written close to 100, and had gotten fed up with the 1811 to 1820 period, she began to write detective stories under the pseudonym of M. C. Beaton.
She is the prolific author of the best-selling Agatha Raisin mysteries (set in the Cotswolds) and the Hamish Macbeth mysteries (set in Scotland)

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Mystery fiction, NetGalley and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to “Death of a ghost” by M.C. Beaton – Book Review

  1. Tanya MacPherson says:

    Id be honoured if you’d check this out https://tanyatale.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/bridge-of-eternal-love/


  2. luvtoread says:

    Great review! I haven’t read any MC Beaton, but this series and the Agatha Raisin series are on my TBR, so someday… The atmosphere of this series sounds like a lot of fun! It sounds from your review that it might not matter in which order the books are read.


  3. Sandra says:

    I’ve not read any of her books. (Though I loved the tv version of Agatha Raisin, if that counts for anything, and my sister lives in a village in Sutherland! :-D) But as I read your excellent review I found myself thinking: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ If the author is happy to write such a long series all in the same vein and there is a readership for each book, that’s fine by me. That said, I’ve never read more than half a dozen books from a series, and there are few authors where I’ve read more than that even when the books bear no relation to each other. Like you perhaps, I find the lustre goes and very often I simply find my tastes have moved on or been hijacked by an author new to me. Which brings me full circle… I rather like the sound of Hamish and his Sutherland village. And the fact that it would seem that nothing much has changed over 32 books suggests I can dive in with the latest and not feel I’ve missed anything!


  4. FictionFan says:

    I’ve never really taken to MC Beaton, but your comments sound much like how I feel about the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency books of Alexander McCall Smith – loved the first few but eventually just lost interest because they began to feel all the same…


    • Fictionophile says:

      I very much enjoy series fiction for the most part, however I think most authors have exhausted the originality by book 20 or so… Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Emma says:

    I read my first M. C. Beaton (Agatha Raisin) last year and enjoyed it but it was light. Not sure this type of book appeals to me overall. I feel like there is an itch when I’m reading them that I can’t quite scratch.


  6. I’ve never read any of the Hamish McBeth novels but I do love Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series. My interest did begin to fade a bit after 12 books but I think that’s partly because I read them too close together. She is still my go-to when I want an easy and entertaining read though. I think I may need to try the Hamish McBeth books next.


    • Fictionophile says:

      The Hamish Macbeth books are funny and enjoyable reads Hayley. You just don’t need to read ALL 32 of them as they are repetitive in many aspects. At least you know what to expect, much like the Agatha Raisin novels. I’ve read many of the Agatha novels too and liked them very much at the time. Now…. “been there, done that”.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for your honest review. I think that series that are that long are likely to become repetitive. I have noticed it with other lengthy series and even the great Agatha Christie.


    • Fictionophile says:

      Yes, thanks for your comment Robbie. When it comes to this series, though they are all quite entertaining, if you’ve read one, then you’ve read them all.


  8. I really want to sample this series. So many good ones to choose from. Great review. Thanks for sharing.


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