M.C. Beaton: A Highland Christmas (1999) A Hamish Macbeth Mystery

I like all sorts of crime and thrillers and while I mostly prefer more character driven psychological novels, I have a weakness for cozy and paranormal crime. Two years ago I discovered M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series and fell in love with its charm. Set in the fictitious Scottish Highland village of Lochdubh it has everything we want from cozy crime. Great atmosphere, a very likable inspector, some excentric characters and crime that is far from gruesome. In the case of A Highland Christmas the crime doesn’t even involve a murder.

If you have never read any Hamish Macbeth, this may not be the place to start. It’s one of the more recent ones of a series in which there are already at least 30 books. Part of the charm is the character Hamish Macbeth (there is also a TV series starring Robert Carlyle). He is a very kind, good-looking loner whose love life is far from successful. In the earlier books his main companions are a dog and a wild cat. They are not mentioned here which was a bit of a disappointment but logical as they can hardly live forever. What I like about Hamish is the fact that he treats everyone equally nice, the old and the young, the men and the women and the animals as well.

Lochdubh is described in a way that makes you want to stay there for a while when your own personal life is getting too stressful. Life in the village of Lochdubh, which is surrounded by the picturesque scenery of the Scottish Highlands, is slow, people form a tight-knit community, they are chatty and friendly. Sorrows can be easily forgotten over a cup of tea and a wee dram.

It is winter in Lochdubh and Christmas isn’t far, only in this community of fervent Calvinists, there is no such thing as Christmas and Christmas decorations are unheard of. They are, as some would say, devilish. When this year, for the first time, someone sets up a Christmas tree and Christmas lights, nobody is surprised when they are stolen. Hamish isn’t thrilled that, instead of being somewhere on vacation, he has to chase a petty thief and on top of that find out who stole Mrs Gallagher’s cat.

Mrs Gallagher is a foreigner who has been living in Lochdubh for a while. She is generally hated but when Hamish pays her a visit and sees that she bolts her door, he is a bit surprised. It seems the woman is more frightened than truly unfriendly.

If you want to find out who stole the Christmas tree and if the cat is found, you have to read the book for yourself.

It’s a charming book, set in a charming world and for those who like M.C. Beaton it’s certainly a nice addition to the other books. In any case it’s a nice Christmas themed book with a picture-book Christmas ending, involving snow and good-natured festivities. The book is not too sugary but charmingly old-fashioned, despite the overall positive tone and the depiction of a better world, it still touches on themes like old-age and loneliness.

M.C. Beaton is also the author of the equally well-liked Agatha Raisin series which I haven’t read. Does anyone know  it?