Constable Hamish Macbeth enjoys the quiet pace to be found in the village of Lochdubh in northern Scotland as he goes about checking on the remote residents after a hard winter. There’s a newcomer to his beat, artist Effie Garrard who has been selling some of her paintings and pottery in the local shops. Hamish is certain the harsh winter has driven her off but instead, finds her comfortable and seemingly happy in her surprisingly dark studio. He can’t help but notice a layer of dust on the potter’s wheel and a container of dried, ill used brushes sitting along side the easel. When he asks Effie about her work she becomes agitated and throws him out of the cottage. Newcomers are trouble and Hamish just knows Effie is no exception.
So begins this engaging, fun murder mystery in which the usually unflappable Hamish finds himself out of his depth while dealing with several women who complicate his life to no end. When Effie is discovered dead, the higher ups close the case convinced her death was a suicide but Hamish is bothered. There are too many people who had reason and opportunity to kill the delusional artist but as Hamish begins to question people, a key witness turns up dead. Now his superiors have moved in on the case in force and they’re getting nowhere fast. There are plenty of false leads, lies, secrets and deception to go around and nobody knows if they are dealing with one murderer or two. Meanwhile the poor constable is having difficulty keeping his assorted relationships separate from his profession has he sifts through clues, gossip and interviews in an attempt to track down the perpetrator of two murders.
Beaton has outdone herself with this installment in the Macbeth series as she blends humor, local color, personal relationships and deductive reasoning into a seamless piece of storytelling. The return of two ex-sweethearts within days of each other add an amusing layer of complexity as does Hamish’s choice of pets which play an active role in the story’s conclusion. Turn off the phone, brew up a pot of tea and curl up in a comfy chair with this one.