Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Death of a Cad: Hamish Macbeth #2 and Death of a Hussy: Hamish Macbeth #5

Death of A Cad: Hamish Macbeth #2
Read by Antony Ferguson
Published February 1987 by St. Martin's Press
Death of A Hussy: Hamish Macbeth #5
Read by Shaun Grindell
Published December 1990 by St. Martin's Press
Both written by M.C. Beaton

Publisher's Summaries:
Death of a Cad: 
When Priscilla Halburton-Smythe brings her London playwright fiance home to Lochdubh, everybody in town is delighted . . . except for love-smitten Constable Hamish Macbeth. Yet his affairs of the heart will have to wait. Vile, boorish Captain Bartlett, one of the guests at Priscilla's engagement party, has just been found murdered-shot while on a grouse hunt. Now with many titled party guests as the prime suspects, each with a reason for snuffing out the despicable captain, Hamish must smooth ruffled feathers as he investigates the case. When the hidden culprit strikes again, Hamish will find himself trying to save Priscilla from a miserable marriage-and catch a killer before he flies the coop.

Death of a Hussy: 
Wealthy Maggie Baird is neither nice nor kind nor generous. Once she was beautiful, but now, although middle-aged, she retains the appetites of a beautiful woman. When Maggie's car catches fire with her inside it, suspicion focuses on the five houseguests staying at Maggie's luxurious Highlands cottage: her timid niece and four former lovers, once of whom Maggie had intended to pick for a husband. All five are impecunious. All five had ample opportunity to monkey with Maggie's car. So finding who did it requires all Police Constable Hamish Macbeth's extraordinary common sense and insight into human nature. And lazy lout though he may be, Hamish lets no grass grow under his feet when it comes to solving a murder. Especially when he may be the next target.

My Thoughts:
When I decided to start listening to all of the Hamish Macbeth books from the beginning, I paid no attention to whether or not I'd listened to the book before or not. So when I finished the first book, I started the second, Death of a Cad, and immediately realized that I'd listened to it before. Twice, in fact. But the point of reading from the beginning was to catch all of the relationships and details of the village that I might have missed or forgotten. 

So I listened on and was reminded of several local characters I'd forgotten about, enjoyed the description of the Scottish Highlands, and was, once again surprised when the murderer was uncovered. Which doesn't say much for how these books hold up your memory, I suppose. But I'm going to give myself a break, in that regard - it has been 12 years since I first listened to this book and 7 since my second reading. A couple of things that I noticed on this re-reading: a) Beaton herself points out the "what are the odds" aspect of a whole group of people who all dislike a particular man being together in one house at the same time which is something I'm always wondering in these kinds of books; and, b) the murderee is a kind of chameleon, in the case changing his hobbies depending on the people he's around, which is the kind of behavior that's come up in several conversations I've had lately. 

After I finished Death of a Cad, I did make the decision that I'd skip over the books that I've already listened to, even if it meant that I might miss a couple of pieces of character history that I don't recall. So I skipped on over to the fifth book, Death of a Hussy. This one's got some plot devices that are pretty contrived. Maggie was kind enough to take in her niece after Alison's mother died but then treats her terribly for the rest of her life. Time and again the men who end up as suspects in her death remark on how Maggie has changed but we never get an explanation as to why, what caused her to be the kind of person who treats her own niece as a servant. Then there's the idea that Maggie was so determined to get remarried that she gathered together some of the men she'd previously had relationships with, knowing they all needed money, and telling them that she would bequeath all of her money to whoever agreed to marry her and that she had a bad heart. Beaton makes much of how much Maggie had let herself go over the years, seeming to imply that Maggie's appearance would prevent her finding a new man much more than her hideous personality. It's a thing I'm starting to notice now about Beaton's books - she really seems to value a woman's looks. I have to keep reminding myself that these books were written 30 years ago but this feminist is having some trouble with that aspect of the books. 

I'm going to take a break before I pick up the next book in the series; otherwise I fear they will all start to blend. Also, jumping from one reader to a new one when you're listening to the same characters is a bit jarring. I never did come to like Grindell as much as I liked Ferguson but I might have liked him better had he not followed right behind Ferguson. Cozy mysteries, though, especially Hamish Macbeth mysteries, are just the thing I need right now so I imagine I'll pick up Death of a Snob

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