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DEATH OF A CHIMNEY SWEEP
By M. C. Beaton
Grand Central, 2011 ($24.99 )
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
The people of Drim, Scotland are all aflutter when Captain Henry Davenport and his wife Milly buy a long-neglected parsonage near their tiny village. Davenport is a bully and a blowhard who keeps a tight rein on his timid wife, and his attitude quickly ticks off the natives. He goes out for a walk one day while Pete Ray, the local chimney sweep, plies his trade at the house. Davenport turns up dead in an unusual setting, and Pete is nowhere to be found. Police Sergeant Hamish Macbeth is called in to investigate. The case against Pete seems airtight, but Macbeth doesn't believe it for a minute. He turns up evidence missed by his superiors, who, as always, do not appreciate being left with egg on their faces. Another body turns up, a person linked to Davenport, and Macbeth sets out to find the real killer.
Macbeth is generally lazy and lacks ambition. He has resisted opportunities for promotions because he would have to leave his beloved village of Lochdubh and all the people he cares about. He is lazy, that is, until he gets a case that stirs his blood, and then there's no stopping him - even when his higher-ups tell him to cease and desist. With some help from Milly, Davenport's meek and mild widow, his partner Jimmy Anderson, Tam Tamworth, a reporter who tries to get the inside track with the widow and unexpectedly takes a shine to her, and a former love, Elspeth, he tracks down the four men he believes are responsible for the murders. The search goes as far as Brazil and Florida, and the body count keeps growing. Macbeth comes close to being a victim more than once, but he keeps slogging on until the job is done.
His love life has not improved. He'd been ready to propose to Elspeth (DEATH OF A VALENTINE), but a misunderstanding put an end to that. He still pines for his first love, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, but not enough to do anything about it. When all is said and done, Macbeth is perfectly content to live in the back of the police station with only his dog and cat for company, visiting with his friends, poaching the occasional salmon, waiting patiently for the next case to come along.
This is number twenty-six in the Hamish Macbeth mystery series, and Beaton has once again produced a charming tale of life and love and death in the Highlands.
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