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Saturday 9 October 2021

‘Death Of A Sweep’ by M C Beaton

Published by Constable,
24 February 2011.
ISBN: 978-1-8901021-4.

Police Sergeant Hamish Macbeth has little need to visit the village of Drim, which although part of his beat as it were, is some miles across the mountain from Lochdubh and is a relatively peaceful village, until that is the long empty old manse is sold to Captain Henry Davenport and his wife Milly.  Henry Davenport is a bully and his wife Milly a rabbit, so when Henry says the chimney needs sweeping, Milly jumps to it. 

The discovery of a dead body up the Davenport’s chimney has Pete the chimney sweep in the frame especially as he has disappeared. But Hamish doesn’t believe that the affable sweep is the murderer.  Then they locate Pete and the plot thickens.

This is fun reading as the body count mounts alarmingly, and I became fascinated with the ease in which the bodies were disposed.  I have always though that the problem with committing murder would be the disposal of the body, but up there in Scotland it is child’s play.

Of course having watched the TV adaptation featuring Robert Carlyle, I am already sold on as Hamish Macbeth, but there are additionally some good characters in this adventure and I heartily recommend it as a good romp.  Enjoy.

Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

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.

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