Synopsis: The citizens of Cnothan have never been friendly to outsiders. But, most of them have an exceptionally large hatred for Englishman William Mainwaring, who has purchased some of their land and always seems to be welcoming confrontation with the way he thinks he is smarter than everyone else. As a result, when his skeleton is found at the bottom of a lobster tank, just about everyone can be considered a suspect.
Book Review: Death of an Outsider (1988)
A review of the Hamish Macbeth murder mystery written by M. C. Beaton.
I borrowed this book from our local library on Wednesday, thinking it would be a way to help me the through my daughter's skating lessons that evening. As it turns out, once I started reading it, I found it hard to put down and I wound up finishing it in record time.
As I was telling my daughter yesterday, I like Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. But, after reading this book, which is my third Hamish Macbeth murder, I think I might be liking Macbeth more. Or, at minimum, I might be liking his mysteries a lot more.
There were a couple things, in particular, that really stood out for me when it came to this one. The first was the fact he had an uphill battle from the start. Since he was in Cnothan on temporary assignment, he was also considered an outsider and, in addition to trying to solve the real crime, was stuck trying to deal with being the target of pranks and rumors.
In addition, he had zero support from his superiors because the lobsters who consumed all but Mainwaring's bones had already been sold and eaten and his bosses were afraid of what would happen if those people found out. That, of course, only made his ability to solve the crime even more difficult.
I also liked how the book, much like Death of a Cad, took the time to show us Macbeth's human side, tying in his carry-over feelings for Priscilla in the previous book, his hatred of Cnothan and its people and giving him a new love interest who may or may not be the killer. The fact M. C. Beaton managed to do that without it being the central focus of the story did make me enjoy the overall book more.
My only real complaint about this book was the decision to tell us about village drunk, Sandy Carmichael, finding and hiding the body. I think it would have been better to keep that part of the mystery a secret and have Macbeth (and the reader) find out about that during the course of his investigation. Telling the reader ahead of time, from Carmichael's point of view, only served to eliminate a primary suspect.
Overall, I thought this was an entertaining murder mystery. Hamish Macbeth is a fun hero to read about and the mystery was very unique. I would recommend it.
My Grade: A
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