A few weeks ago, I reviewed the first in M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series, Death of a Gossip. This one, Death of a Cad, is the triumphant return of More of the Same, otherwise known as If You’ve Got A Winning Formula, Why Change It?
I’m not knocking that, by the way. I’m listening to these as audiobooks during workouts, and they are wonderfully suited for that purpose. Death of a Cad involves the murder of Peter Bartlett, a dilettante, ladies’ man, slob, and perfect all-around swine. (One none-too-subtle scene involves his using someone else’s toothbrush to scrub his toes.) He’s invited — no one quite knows why — to the Lochdubh home of Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, for a house-party and a dismal grouse-hunt with a failing population of grouse. As it turns out, in the very best tradition of British house-parties, nearly every person at the party has a motive to murder Bartlett, and duly murdered he is. Then comes the cozy, amusing process of suspecting each person in turn, until at last we light on the murderer, and justice is done. I never try to anticipate this and guess who it really is. I just let it all wash over me, like… er… like Lake Lochdubh.
It’s so difficult for me to remember that this book was written in 1987. I mean, I know that was 25 years ago, but honestly: Priscilla as a debutante, who meekly submits to her parents’ every wish about whom she should marry? Upper-class types shouting at the police? Spinster aunts? There’s never a mention of a computer or of digital files or of any modern police technology beyond fingerprinting. I keep expecting Miss Marple to show up. It’s a cozy, country-house mystery in the tradition of the genre. Some of these things are irritants (the persistent negative portrayal of women, for instance). It remains to be seen whether it will be the, oh, let’s see, the sand in the oyster that creates the pearl, or whether it will just be sand in my bathing suit, which needs to be eliminated. But so far, so good: for now, there is more of the charming, red-haired Hamish in my future.