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Death of a Gentle Lady: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery, by M.C. Beaton (Read by Graeme Malcolm)

Mrs. Gentle… what a perfect name for such a fine, genteel newcomer to the bucolic town of Lochdubh, Scotland! Hamish Macbeth, the town's constable, may be the only person who suspects Mrs. Gentle is not the sweet, kind old woman she pretends to be. Because he's still a bachelor, and Lochdubh is relatively crime-free, his supervisors decide to save money by closing his station house and moving him to a police barracks in a larger town. This is dreadful! Not only will he lose his comfortable little cottage, but he'll have to give up his unattractive, but loveable and faithful dog and cat. Ever the clever detective, Hamish realizes that if he were to marry, he wouldn't be able to move into the men's police dormitory, but he's already alienated and rejected the two women he might have asked. Just as in the movies, a damsel in distress unexpectedly appears in his police station. Mrs. Gentle's beautiful foreign maid, Ayesha, needs a husband if she wants to stay in Scotland, so Hamish asks her to marry him. Hamish's wedding day is marred first by a missing bride and then by the murder of Mrs. Gentle. With the instant crime wave, there is no doubt that Lochdubh needs a full time constable, but Hamish finds his life becoming even more complicated as he attempts to solve the murders and repair damaged relationships.

M.C. Beaton's latest entry in her Hamish Macbeth series is entertaining from beginning to end. Not only are the characters well-drawn, but the plot provides just enough suspense to keep the listener eagerly feeding CDs into the player, while dreaming about pastoral Scottish landscapes. As tiny as Lochdubh is, it's a booming metropolis compared to the village in the highlands that Hamish visits looking for clues. Thanks to Beaton's descriptive prose, the listener gets a travelogue and geography and history lesson while enjoying a suspenseful story. The reader, Graeme Malcolm, does an outstanding job of narrating this book. Each of the accented voices conjures up the image of a distinct character in Hamish's world. For a short time, the listener is transported to a small Scottish town and immersed in the culture of rural village life.

It might be insensitive to describe a murder mystery as delightful, but that's just what this audio book is. With all his bumbling and lack of grace, Hamish is appealingly likeable. Even when he's the butt of jokes, as when the villagers find out he almost married a prostitute, he manages to keep focused on his goal of finding the murderer who is terrorizing his hometown. Humorous situations and conversations keep the mood light in this charming murder mystery.

Ruth Mormon

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