I read once upon a time that literature is food for the soul. I agree, but would take this a step further. I believe books are also food for the mind. And like food, some books are good for you and some books are not. Now, when I say books, I’m not limiting myself to novels. I also am including short stories, snippets, flash fiction, etc. I am, however, omitting poetry as that is a different discussion altogether.
Some literature is like a full course meal, while other literature is merely a snack to tide you over until you’re ready for that full course meal. One might immediately make the connection between the size of the meals and the size of the books. This is not the case in this discussion. I am referring to the content. A story may be 1300 pages, but can still be utter crap. It may be the equivalent to eating 10 bags of Doritos. It will sate your hunger. It will fill your stomach. But you will most likely feel unsatisfied when you’re done. On the other hand, a short story that tugs at the heart strings and is one that you will recommend to your friends and family and remember for years to come although you only read it once is a meal of a lifetime.
The book I’m looking at this month is the beginning of a series of mysteries. So many books these days seem to be the beginning of a series and I have reviewed several that do, that after this month, I am on a quest to search for books that are not equivalent to reading “The Wheel of Time.”
This month I am presenting M.C. Beaton‘s Hamish Macbeth Mysteries, book 1: “Death of a Gossip.” The beginning of this review was a bit off the beaten track from my last year of reviews for one reason: I find the Hamish Macbeth books to be of the healthy snack food variety. Often, I will pick up the next in this series when I’m not quite ready to dive into another series, or when I can’t quite decide which book on my shelves I’m ready crack. I finish the mystery will a smile on my face and an exercised brain.
M.C. Beaton first off is a woman author. I did not know this for the first several Macbeth books I had read. It was a question I actively pursued the answer to, so I thought I’d present it straight off for anyone so inclined to pick up this entertaining series.
Beaton’s protagonist is Hamish Macbeth, a police constable in a small fictional town situated in the far north highlands of Scotland. Before that pushes anyone away for fear the book is written in near indecipherable Scottish brogue, let me assure you that the Scottish accent only comes into the prose at appropriate times. She has painted a wonderful picture of a quaint Scottish town (and the surrounding ones as well throughout the series). The reader can easily feel as though they have known the village and its inhabitants for years. I have visited Scotland, and seen towns like the ones Beaton writes about, so I do not speak of an imagined land and culture.
Macbeth’s love in the series begins and ends with Ms Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, the lovely daughter of the local land owner. Any more said on this particular subject would start to ruin the fun of their repartee.
The construction of the mysteries is part of the joy of the series. Seeing how Beaton constructs the murders, and murder mysteries they are, from the building blocks of a small village in northern Scotland is a lesson in plot building. To Beaton’s credit, the majority of the books are around 200 pages in paperback form. So, taking the above mentioned plot building and wrapping it into a small book is quite interesting.
Beaton’s writing is simplistic, but not dumbed down. The characters are easy to follow and easily distinguishable. The series was picked up by BBC and began in 1995 airing for three seasons. This series is highly recommended as that apple to tide you over till dinner. I give the Hamish Macbeth series five Scottish flags!