Death of a Policeman
A Hamish Macbeth Mystery #30
M. C. Beaton
Grand Central Publishing, February 2014
Preserving his beloved small town Scottish Highland police station is a never-ending battle for Hamish Macbeth. And this time, he has to survive in the face of facilities being closed all over Scotland in the wake of cost-cutting. Meanwhile there’s plenty to do, including the investigation into the shotgun death of a policeman who was spying on Hamish at the behest of his arch-enemy, Chief Inspector Blair.
This novel, the 30th in a long-running series, is a little different, especially as it encompasses the love lives of the various characters, including Hamish’s assistant, Dick. And even Hamish begins to wonder whether he wants a companion other than his pets and Dick.
All the wonderful characteristics which have made the Hamish Macbeth mysteries popular abound in this latest entry: the local color, dialect and residents. And this time Macbeth exhibits a side of himself that is uncharacteristic in an effort to keep his beloved Lochdubh police station open.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2014.
Cries of the Lost
Permanent Press, November 2013
This novel is a sequel to Dead Anyway, published by The Permanent Press in September of 2012, which I absolutely loved. The author has written ten previous mysteries, including two other series and one standalone. Despite my initial hesitation, I thought I’d repeat some of the content of the opening paragraph of my review of that first book in this new series to catch people up on the background. The protagonist is 43-year-old Arthur Cathcart [although he seldom uses that name after the events that kick off the first book]. And “kick” is an appropriate word here, inasmuch as its first chapter describes a scene wherein Arthur [self-described as a “math geek and social misfit”] and his “breathtakingly beautiful and successful” Chilean wife, Florencia, are held at gunpoint in their home in Stamford, Connecticut, by a man they have never seen before, who shortly shoots them both in the head. Florencia is killed instantly; Arthur is grievously wounded and left for dead. After falling in and out of a coma for months, he is almost literally brought back from the dead, and makes a decision not to let the world in on that fact, convincing his physician sister, who has been caring for him, to fake his death. The earlier book ended with Arthur deciding to use the skills of his profession – – he holds a Masters in Applied Mathematics, doing freelance market research (a field in which “we take a complete lack of results as a sign of encouragement” – – to find out who brutally murdered his adored wife and left him for dead.
Things immediately become more complicated when Cathcart discovers that his wife had a secret bank account in the Cayman Islands, and manages to move most of the millions therein contained, but accessing the safe deposit box requires that he and his significant other, beautiful and brilliant Natsumi Fitzgerald (a former blackjack dealer, “a small, slim person, barely a hundred pounds soaking wet)), to travel to the bank, from which they successfully retrieve the contents, leading only to more questions and more international travel: from the southern coast of France to London, Madrid, Italy, Switzerland, and ultimately Manhattan and Connecticut. As their search continues, Cathcart increasingly realizes just how little he knew Florencia.
Natsumi queries: “Was there ever a more curious person?” Which elicits the response: “Or paranoid?” Both necessary attributes, and there is much proof of both in these pages. Cathcart makes the observation: “It was rarely a failure of knowledge, but rather imagination. It was an affliction of the age – – too much information, not enough wisdom to make sense of it.” But he has the skills, and the imagination. Both Cathcart and Natsumi are equally proficient at disguises and subterfuge, despite which they find themselves “a pair of fugitives from forces known and unknown.” The title derives from this line in the book: “In the face of so much darkness, what else can a person do but bear witness, and pray he can sleep through all the cries of the lost?” Not wanting to give away any spoilers, suffice it to say that the book delivers on the promise of Dead Anyway, and this novel is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, June 2014.