Death Of A Maid by M.C. Beaton published by Mysterious Press in 2007, is the twenty second novel in the Hamish Macbeth series of cozies set in the highlands of Scotland. This is the first story of the series that I’ve read. My librarian suggested it as they are doing a promotion of the entire ‘cozy mysteries’ sub-genre. This is probably the first cozy that I’ve read where a law enforcement professional is being utilized as the primary detective. The premise for this, that Constable Hamish, though known to be an exceptional sleuth amongst the locals, shuns the departmental spotlight fearing that a promotion to a more formal post as a detective would result in the closing of the local police station in the village of Lochdubh; the station that serves as his home as he is the only Constable there.
The mystery unfold when a cleaning lady is found at the end of a customer’s driveway bludgeoned with her own metal pail. While investigating the quirky clients of this cleaning lady, none of whom are at all upset, and seeing evidence of the maid’s lack of cleaning acumen, Hamish uncovers the truth behind the maid’s relations to her customers… black mail! As Hamish uncovers the secrets hidden in the village, the bodies start piling up… whose secret is so terrible that its keeper will silence anyone who uncovers it?
The story itself unfolds at a quick pace. The settings are picturesque and described in colorful ways, like the arrival of spring “crawling in on sleepy gusts of wind”. The characters that populate this village are a charm, like the tourist shop keeper Miss Creedy who bakes inedible scones and the Indian businessman Patel who sells them on consignment at his convenience shop unaware of their strong resemblance to rocks.
I’ve seen a couple of reviews that point out that the book is longer than it needs to be with an additional sub-plot played out in the last twenty to thirty pages. I myself wasn’t too put out by it. I can see that it may be padding the story of page or word length, but I really don’t find that too much of a deterrent to enjoying this story. So, I will probably read a couple of the earlier books of this series just to test the waters…
To Hamish’s surprise, Tom Morrison, Heather’s ex-husband, answered the door. “Surprised to see me?” he said with a grin. “We’re back together. We’ll be getting married again next month.”
“That’s grand,” said Hamish, “Is Heather at home?”
“Come in. I’ll get her.”
When Heather appeared, she looked happy. Hamish hoped it would not turn out that she had murdered her step-mother in a fit of rage. He suddenly wondered why it was when he had been stalking the professor that the neighbours had all noticed his presence and yet had seen no one at all on the day of Mrs. Gillespie’s murder. Could someone have masqueraded as a postman, or as someone the neighbours would expect to see?
He realized Heather was looking at him with amusement. “I’ve asked you two times if you want tea or coffee,” she said.