Book Review: Death of a Scriptwriter (1998)

by StevenHelmer

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

Synopsis: At one point in her life, Patricia Martyn-Broyd was a moderately successful novelist. Now in her seventies, her books are no longer in print, her agent is deceased and she is largely forgotten with her only (reluctant) friend being Constable Hamish Macbeth. When a TV producer wants to turn one of her murder mysteries into a show, she is thrilled. However, her elation soon turns to despair when she learns the show's scriptwriter wants to turn her conservative novel into something racy. As a result, when the scriptwriter and, later, the show's leading actress, are murdered, she becomes the favorite suspect and it is up to Hamish to find out the truth.


The weather hasn't been cooperating with me lately, preventing me from doing some of the outdoor chores that are on my list. As a result of that, I am finding myself with some additional time to read in the evenings and made it through this book over the course of just a couple days. After reading it, I can honestly say I enjoyed it.

Death of a Scriptwriter
Death of a Scriptwriter

Overall, I thought the murder mystery in this book was intriguing, mostly because there were so many people who had the motive and opportunity to commit murder. This was especially true of the scriptwriter, who seemed to get on everyone's wrong side and may have even stolen some of his previous scripts from another writer. 

The decision to have the murders take place in Drim was a nice touch too. As was established in Death of a Charming Man, the villagers in Drim could turn hostile at the drop of a hat. This, in essence, created an extended list of suspects including the local minister (who was offended by the show's sexual nature) and the various women who were competing with each other for a background role.

I think the part about Hamish once again having to put his job on the line and hope for a confession was interesting, especially since he actually had the evidence to prove the killer's guilt but, because he screwed up and never turned it in, couldn't use it without getting in serious trouble with his superiors. It kind of made me wonder what he would have done had he not gotten the confession.

In addition to the murder mystery, I found I was somewhat intrigued by the side story involving the minister's beaten-down wife and, with the help of a friend, her taking steps to regain her independence from him. There were some funny moments in that story, especially when she later attempted to return to Drim and thank her friend, but her plight was just serious enough to have me cheering her on.

My only real complaint with this book (and the series to this point) is the constant reminder of Hamish's relationship with Priscilla Halburton-Smythe. It was one thing when she was still part of the story and involved with his cases. But, having him pine over her just because someone mentioned her name is getting a little old and I'm hoping, as I progress in the series, I'll stop seeing her name mentioned as much, at least when she's not essential to the plot.

Death of a Scriptwriter (Hamish Macbeth Mysteries, No. 14)

From the author of the Agatha Raisin television series...DEATH OF A SCRIPTWRITER: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery HOLLYWOOD IN THE HIGHLANDSWith the lovely Priscilla Halburton-Smythe a...

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Final Opinion

Hamish needs to get a new girlfriend so he can finally get over his lost love, Priscilla. Other than that, I found I enjoyed the book and would recommend it. 

My Grade: A

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Updated: 05/29/2019, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 02/07/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for product lines, pretty pictures and practical information.
Do we know why it is that the Drim villagers are so volatile?

It's a bit déjà vu that Constable Macbeth can't seem to cut emotional ties. But perhaps it's realistic for his kind of inward-looking, methodical, serious character who gets into a routine and is thrown off when the routine changes, for better or for worse.

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