Death of a Gentle Lady Review
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The village of Lochdubh, in the highlands of northern Scotland, doesn’t witness much crime. The young people and drugs have moved south, and that suits the town’s policeman, Constable Hamish Macbeth, just fine. But life in Lochdubh starts to rumble when the “gentle” elderly widow, Mrs. Margaret Gentle, moves into the castle just outside of town. She donates to worthy causes and has won the hearts of Lochdubh citizens—with the exception of Macbeth. Not only does he see through her, but he sees her as downright evil.

Macbeth’s suspicions are confirmed when she suggests to Detective Chief Inspector Blair that keeping his station open is a waste of money. After all, not only does their constable have nothing to do, but he lacks social skills and regularly mooches meals. Blair suggests that Macbeth take the detective exams and transfer to Strathbane, where they have a big drug problem and could use the extra manpower. Macbeth is incensed, since he’s content with his job just as it is.

Soon, there’s a knock on the station door. The desperate but beautiful Ayesha, Mrs. Gentle’s maid, turns herself in to be arrested. Her visa has expired, and Mrs. Gentle cold-heartedly terminated her services. Macbeth figures that if he marries her, she can stay in the country, and his superiors won’t throw him out of the station. Furthermore, it will anger the vicious widow, and the town’s people will be both surprised and ecstatic that he’s finally getting married. But then two murders occur—and eventually more—as Macbeth’s fiancée isn’t what she appears to be. Blackmail, prostitution, and even the Russian Mafia may be at the root.

British author M. C. Beaton takes her readers down windy roads—some leading nowhere—as Death of a Gentle Lady provides a lot of twists and turns. That, along with the far-fetched outcome, may frustrate some readers. However, I was able to overlook the unlikely outcome because the comedic situations, quirky characters, and charmed setting captivated me. Each character has such a unique personality, and Beaton plays off these oddities to add to the plot. Even though I’m a big city girl, I enjoyed taking a virtual vacation to this enchanting town and spying on these villagers—each of whom carries a reputation that’s difficult to break. Additionally, I found it fascinating how spreading town gossip becomes an effective tool in gathering information and exposing possible perpetrators.

Beaton has already published a number of Hamish Macbeth Mysteries (see our reviews of Death of a Dreamer and Death of a Bore), but this was the first that I had the pleasure to read. I hope to indulge in more, though, as I found that this unique novel was difficult to put down.

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