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Tuesday, 4 March 2014

‘Death of Yesterday’ by M.C. Beaton



Published by Constable & Robinson Crime (UK) 21st February 2014. ISBN: 978-1780331034. Grand Central Publishing (USA). 25 February  2014. ISBN: 978-1-4555-0475-6

Contrary to the old adage, familiarity breeds contentment.  After all, a series that has been around since 1985 must have something going for it.  And the Hamish Macbeth novels certainly do:  The small-town Scottish police sergeant himself and his uncanny insights and uncommon and unorthodox manner; a cast of characters that repeatedly stays on form; plots that follow a pattern but are different from one another; Macbeth's eternal hard times from his superiors; his forlorn love life; his pets, a wild cat and a dog; and a lightheartedness that is easy to take and read.

The latest entry has the death of a woman haunting Macbeth although her arrogance originally annoyed him when she reported a possible date drug rape.  This gives the author the chance to subject Macbeth and other police officers to a type of omerta in the small northern Scottish village where the crime took place.  So, no witnesses.  How to solve the mystery?  By plain hard work.

This is the 29th Hamish Macbeth mystery.  It is replete with a flavour of good single-malt scotch, as usual.  And just as important, the author describes the bleak economy in northern Scotland, lack of jobs, employees fearful of being fired from the only employer in town, and
the general social milieu of small-town snobbishness.  Recommended.
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Reviewer: Gloria Feit.

M.C. Beaton was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1936 and started her first job as a bookseller in charge of the fiction department in John Smith & Sons Ltd. While bookselling, by chance, she got an offer from the Scottish Daily Mail to review variety shows and quickly rose to be their theatre critic. She left Smith’s to join Scottish Field magazine as a secretary in the advertising department, without any shorthand or typing, but quickly got the job of fashion editor instead.  She then moved to the Scottish Daily Express where she reported mostly on crime. This was followed by a move to Fleet Street to the Daily Express where she became chief woman reporter. After marrying Harry Scott Gibbons and having a son, Charles, Marion went to the United States where Harry had been offered the job of editor of the Oyster Bay Guardian. When that didn’t work out, they went to Virginia and Marion worked as a waitress in a greasy spoon on the Jefferson Davies in Alexandria while Harry washed the dishes. Both then got jobs on Rupert Murdoch’s new tabloid, The Star, and moved to New York. Anxious to spend more time at home with her small son, Marion, urged by her husband, started to write Regency romances. After she had written over 100 of them under her maiden name of Marion Chesney and getting fed up with 1811 to 1820, she began to write detectives stories. On a trip from the States to Sutherland on holiday, a course at a fishing school inspired the first Hamish Macbeth story. They returned to Britain and bought a croft house and croft in Sutherland where Harry reared a flock of black sheep. But Charles was at school, in London so when he finished and both tired of the long commute to the north of Scotland, they moved to the Cotswolds where Agatha Raisin was created.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

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