Death of a Valentine Review
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After meeting Police Sergeant Hamish Macbeth and the citizens of Lochdubh in M. C. Beaton’s novel, Death of a Gentle Lady, I couldn’t wait for her next Macbeth mystery. Needless to say, I was excited when her latest novel, Death of a Valentine, was released.

The quaint village in the highlands of northern Scotland doesn’t boast much excitement or crime, and Sergeant Macbeth likes it that way. This bachelor leads a simple life with his dogs, and though he’s one of the best at solving crimes, he’s satisfied to be just where he is. However, the young people in the area aren’t as content, so they often travel to Strathbane to experience thrills. That’s why it’s such a surprise when sweet Annie Fleming, the local Lammas queen, is murdered after receiving a letter bomb in a Valentine package.

Macbeth finds a lot of people who have motive: jilted lovers, jealous girlfriends and wives, and other young women who felt they deserved the crown of Lammas queen. Yes, Annie was anything but sweet and innocent. She craved men—all men—from thugs and drug dealers in Strathbane to Lochdubh’s “respectable” married citizens.

However, this is only half of the story. Macbeth is forced to take on a young female constable, Josie McSween, who’s transferred to Lochdubh. Unbeknownst to everyone except her mother, it’s actually a ploy on the part of this emotionally disturbed policewoman who’s determined to marry Hamish and become the perfect wife. When she realizes that Hamish will never be interested in her, she takes drastic measures.

What attracted me to this mystery series were the twists and turns, the quirky characters, the comedic subplots, and the disparity of a small village coming into the 21st century. The town hall still runs an old-fashioned telephone switchboard, while Annie’s elderly neighbor is addicted to the Internet. And, yes, there are amusing situations, too, such as Josie’s foiled attempts.

However, due to my high expectations, I was disappointed by Death of a Valentine. The plot is weak, and the characters aren’t as interesting as they have been in Beaton’s earlier novels. Though I didn’t guess who murdered Annie, it isn’t that surprising. Worse, after a while, I really didn’t care. At the same time, the resolution of Macbeth’s personal problem is somewhat predictable. And the personalities of the regular characters—such as Hamish’s ex-girlfriends and police superiors—are just glossed over.

If you do decide to visit the village of M. C. Beaton’s Lochdubh—and I hope you do—I would recommend reading Death of a Gentle Lady. It’s not that Death of a Valentine is boring or even bad; it’s just not one of her best.

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