“Death of a Gossip” by M.C. Beaton

Death of a Gossip (1985)
Warner Books, 179 pages, $6.50 paperback 
ISBN 0‑446‑60713‑4

Every week during salmon-fishing season a new class arrives at the fishing school in Lochdubh run by John and Heather Cartwright. But town constable Hamish Macbeth has a bad feeling about this particular class….

Macbeth is the lone police officer in Lochdubh, a small village in the Scottish Highlands. Since not much happens in Lochdubh, he keeps a pretty close eye on the fishing school classes. He also has an uncanny knack for showing up just as the sandwiches and coffee are being distributed.

The current class includes Lady Jane Winters, a woman with a sharp, biting tongue who seems to know the secrets of all the others in the class as well as of the Cartwrights and of Hamish Macbeth himself. So it’s no surprise to the reader when Lady Jane first fails to appear for a morning lesson and then later floats to the surface of the lake where the others are practicing their fly casting.

But before killing off Lady Jane, Beaton cleverly uses her to fill in the necessary background of Hamish Macbeth. Except for the outdoor setting, this novel follows the formula of the traditional English drawing-room mystery. Beaton livens up the narrative, though, with her portrayal of Macbeth as the astute observer who quietly goes about identifying the murderer while the police higher-ups who’ve been sent in to solve the case continue to ridicule and ignore him.

© 2000 by Mary Daniels Brown

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