Book Review: Death of a Cad (1987)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1987 Hamish Macbeth murder mystery written by M. C. Beaton.

Synopsis: When Priscilla Halburton-Smythe decides to marry successful playwright Henry Withering, her parents are thrilled and hold a party at their castle in Lochdubh. Among their guests is Captain Bartlett, a man with a long history of angering people and who nearly causes a commotion at Priscilla's party by sleeping with three of the guests in the same night.
When Captain Bartlett is found dead of an apparent hunting accident, the local constable, Hamish Macbeth determines it was, in fact, murder and suspects one of the house guests had enough motive to commit it.


I decided to take another break from Agatha Christie and, since I was mostly undecided about what I wanted to read next, decided to take a chance on another Hamish Macbeth mystery.

This is the second book I've read with this character and, because I wasn't overly impressed with the first one, wasn't really sure what I would think when I read this one. However, it turned out to be a pretty entertaining mystery.

Death of a Cad
Death of a Cad
Photo by Steve Helmer

There were a couple things I found I really liked about this book. The first was the fact Captain Bartlett was the perfect murder mystery victim. Just about everyone he met had a reason to want to kill him, whether it was a jilted lover, a cuckold husband or because he destroyed an expensive piece of dinnerware. This included pretty much everyone at the party.

Ultimately, I did have a theory about who the killer was and that turned out to be the correct one. However, Beaton did a good job keeping a couple of the key clues a secret until the very end and, because of that, my suspect's apparent lack of motive did keep me doubting myself a bit.

Another thing I found I liked about this book was the developing love triangle involving Priscilla, Macbeth and her fiance Henry. This was a bit surprising because, normally, I prefer murder mysteries that focus solely on the murder itself. But, this turned out to be almost as interesting as the murder itself. It was obvious Macbeth was the better of the two men. But, Priscilla was so obsessed with pleasing her parents, it was also very possible she would just lead the constable on and ultimately marry Henry anyway.

On top of it, Macbeth's feelings toward Priscilla had the potential to affect his ability to investigate the case. At minimum, it was a distraction. Plus, since Priscilla's dad hated Macbeth, it was the kind of thing that could have resulted in him being kicked off the case completely. As a result, each rendezvous with Priscilla was entertaining because they had to make every effort to keep it a secret in a small town with plenty of eyes.

Death of a Cad (A Hamish Macbeth Mystery)

From the author of the Agatha Raisin television series...DEATH OF A CAD: A Hamish Macbeth MysteryWhen Priscilla Halburton-Smythe brings her London playwright fiancé home to Loch...

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Final Opinion

This was a well-written murder mystery that I found to be entertaining. Hamish Macbeth is no Hercule Poirot. But, in many ways, that is a good thing and I do recommend reading the book as a result.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 11/19/2018, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 02/10/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for product lines, pretty pictures and practical information.
Sometimes I prefer not to know anything when a mystery series gets my attention because of the author's name, the cover or the title. In this case, your reviews solidify my intent to go through this series, knowing full well that some possibly will disappoint me too.

Was Priscilla's father just being a snob about Hamish Macbeth as an occupational or social underling?

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