I’ve happily plowed through the first fifteen titles in M.C. Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth series, and this Christmas special is the 16th. So far I’ve listened to all of them in audio format with the excellent Davina Porter narrating. A Highland Christmas does not appear to be available in audio format, however, so I took the opportunity to download it from WRL’s new OverDrive ebook collection.
After 15 episodes I have become quite fond of Police Constable Hamish MacBeth, the Scottish village of Lochdubh’s only representative of law and order. Although unambitious and often quite lazy, Hamish has the Highlander’s insatiable curiosity and loathes unanswered questions. Therefore he always becomes more involved in local crimes than his superior – the boorish and unimaginative Chief Inspector Blair of Strathbane – would like. What’s more, Hamish always solves the crime, stealing the ambitious Blair’s undeserved thunder and making him look bad. He is sharply attuned to underlying emotions and motives in people, a talent he often uses to get at the truth Miss Marple style.
The Northern Scotland locale is a character in itself, with its ever-changing landscape, howling winds, and fickle climate. Regular characters emerge, eccentric, exasperating, and lovable. It’s great fun to watch Hamish interact with them all.
In this installment in the series, Christmas is approaching and the village of Lochdubh, most of whose old-fashioned residents frown upon Christmas as a “heathen” holiday, is most decidedly not in a festive mood. This has P.C. MacBeth somewhat down in the mouth, and it doesn’t help that he is called out to the neighboring village of Cnothan to see about a crotchety old lady’s lost cat and the town’s missing Christmas tree.
The Hamish MacBeth series are cozy mysteries, but A Highland Christmas is the coziest of the bunch in that there is less murder and more “warm and fuzzy.” It’s a pleasant interlude for readers already invested in the series. For readers who have not read any of the books in the series, it’s a nice introduction to Hamish MacBeth’s world or a feel-good standalone Christmas story.