Death of a Witch (Hamish Macbeth Mysteries, No. 25)
Hamish Macbeth enjoys his bachelor life as a police constable in the Scottish town of Lochdubh with his dog and wild cat. He knows the people in his tight-knit community and understands their superstitions and eccentricities. His longtime service to them has earned him trust, which he reciprocates, for his form of justice on behalf of these secluded people. Lochdubh isn’t always receptive to newcomers, but when a single woman moves there, she quickly establishes an herbal business catering to the older men of the community. Hamish begins to question the woman who claims to be a witch after learning that she is selling an herb to these men that supposedly enhances their sexual prowess. The local physician informs Hamish that this particular herb is actually damaging their organs. The questioning of her is difficult and irritates him so much that later on he mentions that he would like to kill her. When he returns to her house, no one answers the door so he lets himself in only to discover that someone has already killed the woman by cutting her throat. While he is wondering if he’ll be accused of being the murderer after his threat, the house begins to burn, forcing him to quickly leave. Is the killer still around and did he set fire to the house? This launches the investigation into the witch’s past and is complicated by three additional murders of other women in this small village. To further complicate Hamish’s life, he does not get along with the upper echelon in the police force. His superior officer does not value his experience and connection with his community and would prefer for him to retire or just to leave. So now, what if he is accused of murdering this witch? Hamish also has the challenge of being a bachelor with three women expecting their relationship with him to be exclusive. There is Lesley who is the new forensic expert brought in to assist in the investigation. She’s a little on the pudgy side, and is definitely interested in him. Elspeth is his longtime friend and works as a reporter. Priscilla is the daughter of the owner of the local hotel. He expects them to be there for him whenever it pleases him. M. C. Beaton is the pseudonym for Marion McChesney who has also written under the names Sarah Chester, Helen Crampton, Ann Fairfax, Marion Gibbons, Jennie Tremaine, Charlotte Ward, and Marion Chesney. She has written historical romance novels and mystery novels. To be able to write the 25th mystery in a series has to be a challenge. How does a writer continue the development of the recurring characters without having to restate all the information in the previous novels and while still allowing loyal readers further insight into the characters? Obviously there are some of the books in this series that are better than others. Death of a Witch is a well-written mystery with a quirky sense of realism exposing each character’s flaws and eccentricities with a light-hearted style. The story winds, twists, and turns in unexpected but logical paths with a well-developed sense of humor. Teri A. Davis is an intermediate-level teacher specializing in mathematics and science. She works extensively as an organist/pianist/keyboardist and as a choral director for both adult and children’s choirs. She has contracted as an editor and reviewer for various publishers.