Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Review of "Death of a Chimney Sweep" by M.C. Beaton
Captain Henry Davenport and his wife Milly recently retired to a village in northern Scotland. The couple largely keep to themselves and have little to do with the townspeople. A mysterious phone call spooks the Captain and it seems clear that he's avoiding someone.
When the Davenports' chimney needs cleaning, chimney sweep Pete Ray is hired to do the job. Afterwards, the Captain's body is found stuffed up the chimney and Pete is found dead in the hills, with items stolen from the Davenports' house. To oafish Detective Chief Inspector Blair, it seems like case closed: Pete robbed and killed the Captain....then died from an accident.
However, Lochdubh's Constable Hamish MacBeth - always a thorn in Blair's side - doesn't buy it. He's sure Pete was set up, and sets out to find the real killer. The constable discovers that the Captain was a con man who cheated people, and thinks one of the victims probably killed him. Hamish soon has a list of suspects who were taken in by the swindler, including some residents of Lochdubh.
Hoping the perp is an outsider, Hamish goes to great lengths to investigate the Captain's old army buddies, who are now business moguls. To infiltrate their businessman's club, for example, Hamish dyes his hair black, borrows a toff's suit, dons his friend's Rolex - and pretends to be a Canadian looking to invest.
Meanwhile, other people also learn the Captain was a swindler and - for reasons of their own - try to track down his targets. But the killer is absolutely ruthless, and quickly gets rid of anyone who poses a threat. (For a cozy, this book has quite a high body count.)
In addition to the murders, most of the series' usual characters make an appearance, and there are a variety of subplots:
Angela Brody, the wife of Lochdubh's doctor, pens an erotic novel. In her book, the doctor's wife has a steamy affair with the village policeman. Of course everyone jumps to the obvious (wrong) conclusion. LOL
Hamish' former girlfirend, Elspeth Grant - now a TV journalist - fears her pretty underling want to usurp her job. And she's right.
Superintendent Daviot, trying to get rid of Hamish as usual, sends an Assistant Constable to spy on him.
A suspect's wife runs off to Brazil and hooks up with a hot Latin lothario.
Hamish trains for a hill-racing competition.
All this extraneous activity makes the plot seem random and padded, but that's business as usual with this series. Fans of Hamish MacBeth probably know what to expect.
I thought the book was okay, a mildy entertaining cozy.