Gossip columnist Lady Jane Winters rubs everyone up the wrong way when she joins a fishing class in the quiet village of Lochdubh. Her scathing comments prompt many of the group members to wish her ill will, and local constable Hamish Macbeth isn’t surprised when she turns up dead. But when detectives arrive to take over the case and try to push the young copper’s nose out, Hamish decides to carry out his own investigation…
Marion McChesney had already penned dozens of romantic novels by the time she turned her talents to creating the Hamish McBeth series. Written in 1985 under one of her many pen names, ‘Death of a Gossip’ is the first of these and was apparently inspired after the author witnessed a squabbling group of would-be anglers in the Scottish Highlands.
If you’re expecting something along the lines of the TV series (Hamish Macbeth, starring Robert Carlyle), you’ll be disappointed. In fact, Ms Beaton herself was not happy with the production and when you read you books it’s easy to see why. Her hero is a very laid-back and slightly work-shy individual who has an appealing and comic sense of dialogue. However, McBeth himself is one of the few shining lights in this first novel – the plot is achingly slow to get going and by the time an actual murder occurred I was beginning to wonder if I’d misunderstood the title. Apart from the canny copper, the rest of the cast seem stuck in a bygone age of repressed emotions and romantic ideals that would have been perfect if set in the 1950s, but stand out like a row of sore thumbs in this scenario.
Having said that, it’s an enjoyable tale and McBeth’s witticisms had me laughing out loud. The book fits well in the ‘cosy’ theme often associated with this type of writing, so will have wide appeal, and given that the author has topped twenty million sales worldwide, I don’t think she has anything to worry about.