Death of a Gossip by M.C. Beaton

Death of a Gossip cover

I decided to read Death of a Gossip by M.C. Beaton, in memory of the author who died a few weeks ago, it’s the first book in her Hamish Macbeth series, published in 1995.

This is quite similar to her Agatha Raisin books, but this time the murder mystery has to be solved by Hamish Macbeth who is the local Highland police constable, a bit of a lazy bones on the surface, but with the help of his many cousins who seem to live all over the world, he manages to find the culprit. I suspect that this will be a feature of all of the books. The setting is the Scottish Highlands.

The book begins with John and Heather Cartwright preparing for the arrival of their guests. They own The Lochdubh School of Casting: Salmon and Trout Fishing and are expecting a very mixed bunch of students – a 12 year old boy, a retired army major, an American couple, a London barrister, a London secretary, a debutante type and a society widow.

Very quickly the character of Hamish Macbeth is portrayed as being very lazy and a bit of a scrounger, especially where coffee and food is concerned and he seems to be a bit lacking in brain power. Of course he’s just a typical Highlander and as it turns out has plenty of native wit.

Lady Jane Winters – the society widow of a Labour peer seems determined to upset all of the other students, she’s rude and aggressive and seems to know more about them all than she should. In no time she has just about everyone wanting to kill her – or hoping that someone else does. So when she turns up dead in a loch there’s no lack of suspects.

This was quite an enjoyable very light read, but I don’t know if I’ll continue with the series although the books are the sort that are ideal reading when you don’t feel able to concentrate on anything too taxing.

There were a couple of things in it that annoyed me. The Americanism ‘collect call’ was used when of course it should have been the British ‘reverse charges’. Also Lady Jane Winters, who insists on being called Lady Jane should have been named Lady Winters as she had got her title from her husband’s peerage and hadn’t been born a Lady Jane – such as Lady Diana was. I feel sure that a Scottish woman of M.C. Beaton’s vintage would have known this although many people nowadays don’t seem to understand the difference.

Library books

It’s a good wee while since I blogged about any books that I’ve borrowed from the library – so here goes!

The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham was first serialised in 1927, but according to the Fantastic Fiction link it wasn’t published as a book until 1928. I think it’s the first Allingham book which I’ve read that doesn’t feature Albert Campion. I’m enjoying it, it only has 157 pages and I reached page 75 in one sitting.

Allingham

I decided to give M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth books a go so took out the first in the series Death of Gossip which was published in 1995. I’m not sure about this one and I’ve only seen snippets of the TV series, but I want to give it a go anyway as I know it was so popular. Mind you I’ve found that popularity is not always a plus where books or TV are concerned.

Beaton

Another by Margery Allingham – Hide My Eyes was first published in 1958. I requested this book and I assume that I did that because a blogger that I follow had recommended it recently, but it’s always late at night when I go onto the library website to request books – or even early in the morning, and I can’t remember doing it!

Allingham

I decided to do a bit of research about Shetland as we’ve been meaning to holiday there for a few years now. Shetland by Ann Cleeves seems an ideal place to begin. It has some gorgeous photographs, but one thing puzzles me. Everyone says that Shetland is so different from Orkney (which we have visited) but from the photos they look very alike to me. Maybe the people mean it’s different in atmosphere. I hope we’ll find out one day – but it’s quite a difficult place to get to by car and the ferry trip is very long. Well it is about halfway to Norway I suppose.

Shetland

Have you borrowed anything good out of the library recently? I know I should be concentrating on reading my own books, but I also feel the need to use the local libraries to keep their stats up. I suspect that the local council would be happy to close just about all of them.

Agatha Raisin and the Dead Ringer by M.C. Beaton

I decided to read Agatha Raisin and the Dead Ringer by M.C. Beaton as a bit of a tribute because the author died on the 30th of December, coincidentally the same date my mother died, but 20 years later. Yes that did make our Millenium celebrations a bit of a damp squib.

Anyway – the book. This one was published in 2018 and it’s the second last book in the Agatha Raisin series which I must admit I had given up on as they had become too samey for me, I hadn’t read any since 2013. They are definitely light and frothy reads, very much tongue in cheek I would say.

In this one the Cotswold village of Thirk Magna is about to be visited by the very handsome local bishop and the bell-ringers are planning a special welcoming peal of bells in his honour. The bell-ringers are a mixed bunch of people including a couple of eccentric twin sisters, a lawyer, a vicar’s wife and a teacher, but Agatha is interested in the place because a local heiress had disappeared some years ago and she thinks she can solve the mystery which had baffled the police. It isn’t long though before the bodies begin to pile up and Agatha herself is targeted.

Entertainment Weekly
says: ‘Agatha is like Miss Marple with a drink problem, a pack-a-day habit and major man lust.’

And The Telegraph said: It’s said of Agatha Christie that she’s given more pleasure in bed than any other woman, but M.C. Beaton is matching her as a prolific purveyor of cosy whodunits perfect for pre-lights-out reading.

But there are more serious aspects in these books with a vicar’s wife who is stuck in an abusive marriage and of course having no way out apart from making herself homeless.

I suspect that as the Agatha Raisin books are so popular Little,Brown will continue with them being written by someone else in M.C. Beaton’s style.

M.C. Beaton 1936 – 2019

Beaton

Sadly the author M.C. Beaton’s son has announced that she died on the 30th of December, you can read the Guardian article here. She was 83 years old and I saw her being interviewed on the BBC fairly recently. I had never seen or heard her before so I was very surprised that she was a very ordinary wee Scottish woman, sounding very similar to me accent wise. Apparently she wasn’t happy with the ‘cosy’ description of her books:

“It is patronising and implies that my books, which are easy to read, must be easy to write. Nobody calls Agatha Christie cosy,” she told the Crime Hub in 2019. “To keep writing in clear well-balanced sentences takes a lot of hard work and if anyone doesn’t want a Glasgow kiss, swallow that opinion and put it where the sun don’t shine.”

Honestly she was such a typical Glaswegian woman, not to be messed with! In the interview I saw she came over as being very genuine and funny.

In the Guardian article there’s absolutely no mention of the many Regency Romance books that she wrote in a light parody of Georgette Heyer, those seemed to be churned out at such a rate that I began to wonder if they were being ghost written, but maybe not. I’m not sure if it was the interview below that I watched, but it’s interesting anyway.

Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death by M.C. Beaton

I’m just trying to clear up the books which I’ve been reading recently, making way for a clean start when 2014 comes around. I did enjoy this one more than some of the other Agatha Raisin books which I’ve read this year. I prefer the earlier ones, when Agatha was still a bit of an amateur sleuth. When she sets up her own detective agency they lose some of their charm for me. I think there are just too many uninteresting characters in the shape of her employees.

In this one a villager has decided to sell the water from her well to a company who will bottle it to sell as mineral water. Many of the other Carsely inhabitants are up in arms about it as you can imagine and as ever murder ensues.

Agatha is still pining for her neighbour James Lacey who as men go is a bit of a waste of space really, if only she would realise it!

Library Sale Haul

books

Last Saturday my local library had another booksale. The last couple of sales I was really lucky to get some good history books but no such luck this time, in fact the selection of non-fiction was poor so I didn’t buy any.

I did end up buying plenty more fiction though, and honestly I need more books like a hole in the head but we can’t pass up a library booksale as we would be wondering what gems we had missed out on.

So my haul was:

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D.James. I know that a lot of people have been disappointed with this book but I like P.D. James and I thought that at a cost of 50p I’d give it a go anyway.

Frederica by Georgette Heyer. I really prefer Heyer’s murder mysteries but I’m reading her regency romances too, although I already have about half a dozen unread ones in my pile.

Problem at Pollensa Bay by Agatha Christie. This is a collection of her short stories which I think will be interesting.

Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham. This is an Albert Campion book from 1933, my favourite crime fiction era.

Death of a Valentine by M.C.Beaton. I’ve just realised that this is a Hamish Macbeth murder mystery and I’ve only tried one of those and I gave up on it fairly early on, oh well, I might give it a go anyway.

Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death by M.C.Beaton. Sometimes Agatha is exactly what I want to read, daft but somehow comforting.

The Kellys of Kelvingrove by Margaret Thomson Davis. I don’t think I’ve read anything by this author before, if I ever did it was way back in the mists of time. My mother was a fan of her books though, it was the title which caught my eye as the Kelvingrove/Glasgow Uni area of Glasgow is our old stamping ground and it’s also set in the 1970s which is exactly when we were there.

The Complete Borrowers by Mary Norton.
I bought this to give to a young friend of ours. I have a hardback copy but I loce children’s classics and I don’t want to part with my own copy, hope she likes this one too.

So those should keep me busy over the coming winter along with my ever growing pile, and I bought more today in Edinburgh, but I’ll tell you about them another time.

As ever, Jack bought far fewer books. He came away with: Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. and

The Infinities by John Banville. Looking at the blurb I might give these ones a go sometime too.

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M.C.Beaton

I’ve been on a bit of an Agatha Raisin binge recently and although I enjoyed this one I’m going to take a wee bit of a rest from M.C. Beaton for a while.

This is the second Agatha book, I’ve been reading them all out of order. At the beginning of this one Agatha has just got back from a holiday in the Bahamas where she went on the spur of the moment, right after she hears that it was James Lacey’s holiday destination. She’s usually shameless in her pursuit of James, but even Agatha was mortified when she realised that James had got wind of her intention to follow him and he had changed his plans at the last minute.

On Agatha’s return she finds that a new vet has set up business in her home village of Carsley. The women of the village are queuing up for his attentions, but there’s something strange about him, it isn’t long before Agatha is embroiled in murder yet again.

I had wondered how Agatha ended up with two cats, she started off with Hodge, he was named by James Lacey apparently and Agatha didn’t realise that Hodge was the name of Samuel Johnson’s cat. When she acquires another cat she names the new one Boswell. I had always wondered how the unliterary Agatha had ended up with a Hodge and Boswell. Mystery solved.

Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell by M.C. Beaton

At last I managed to get a hold of the Agatha book in which she is actually married to James Lacey. Previously I had only read the pre marriage and post divorce books.

I did enjoy it as I really like Agatha Raisin as a character, she’s perfectly imperfect as far as I’m concerned, but I must admit to being just a wee bit disappointed that there wasn’t really much of James or the actual marriage involved in the storyline. The newly-weds are already living separately in their own cottages and James goes missing quite early on, but there’s blood in his cottage and of course Agatha is top suspect.

I thought that there might have been more in the way of witty and sarcastic banter between the spouses, (that probably says more about me than anything else!) leading to the inevitable break up but it turned out not to be like that at all. It was all rather mild and it seems that James wasn’t keen on Agatha caking herself with make-up, he criticised her dress sense and apparently hadn’t realised that her microwave is her best friend cooking-wise.

As ever, these books are great for the times when you can’t concentrate on anything too taxing.

Agatha Raisin Hiss and Hers by M.C. Beaton

At last Agatha seems to have got over her obsession with her ex-husband James Lacey, and she has transferred her affections to a local gardener, George Marston, who if I recall correctly from a previous book is an ex-soldier who has left one of his legs behind in Afghanistan.

George is playing hard to get though, in fact he’s going out of his way to avoid Agatha and in desperation she decides to throw a charity ball in the hope of at least being able to get a dance with him. When George doesn’t even bother to turn up to the ball, Agatha goes looking for him and isn’t happy with what she finds.

This one is a disaster for poor Agatha’s ego, but an enjoyable light read – again.

Agatha Raisin There Goes the Bride

Agatha Raisin There Goes the Bride cover

I’m on a bit of an Agatha Raisin kick at the moment, well they’re easy reading which is just what I want for now and there have been quite a few available to borrow at my library recently, sometimes I don’t see any there for ages.

Anyway, in this one Agatha has been invited to go to her ex-husband’s wedding, it’s the last thing she wants to do but she feels she has to show her face. It turns out that James Lacey, Agatha’s ex, is having second thoughts about his forthcoming marriage, he has just realised that his future in-laws are ghastly, but he feels it’s too late to call it off.

Another enjoyable romp, although this is the 20th book of the series and I’m not so keen on the later ones because Agatha has her own detective agency and several members of staff. I preferred it when she was more or less on her own and a complete amateur.

Strangely the in-laws in this book are named George and Olivia, which seems to be a combination of names which Beaton likes for ghastly characters as she used them for a completely different couple in the last book of hers which I read. I wonder if she was inspired by a real couple of her acquaintance with those names!