Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hamish & Me

Amy Roth let out a trill of laughter, and Daphne said crossly to Hamish, "Are you being deliberately stupid?"  Hamish looked horrified.  "I would no more dream of being deliberately stupid, miss, than you yourself would dream of being deliberately bitchy."-Death of a Gossip

For some reason I don't usually get along well with other men.  I'm not sure what it is, but I can count on one hand the number of friends I have that are male.  This of course is not to say that dislike other men--I just get along better with women.  This has a huge impact on my literary tastes.  I can associate with characters like Cree Black and Stephanie Plum in ways I fail to do with Alex Cross and Myron Bolitar.  That is, until I was introduced to Police Constable Hamish Macbeth.

Hamish Macbeth emerged from the clever mind of author M.C. Beaton who introduced the clumsy mooching constable in her 1985 novel, Death of a Gossip.  The series is set in the Scottish Highland village of Lochdubh.  The series' locale is what initially drew me in as I hold strongly to my Scottish heritage and incurable Anglophilia.  As is turns out, Beaton's books are impeccably written mysteries and Hamish is just quirky enough to be both likable and believable.

Beaton's writing style is unique because the reader gets to hear almost every character's point of view in the story.  Throughout her novels, Beaton can shift from Hamish's perspective to that of a minor character with just the transition of a paragraph, sans introductions, and not leave the reader completely confused.  At some points in the Macbeth novels, Hamish can feel like an ensemble character, but he always manages to solve each case in the classic style of the parlor mystery, but with a twist.

Really, the entire series can be thought of as "Cozies with a Twist."  Hamish's mouth would make Miss Marple blush and Hercule Poirot would frown upon Hamish's moral code.  For example, Hamish will often visit other people's homes to make long distance calls so that he does not have to pay the charges.  However, the reader can forgive Hamish for his miserly nature when they find out that he sends almost every penny he earns back to his middle-aged parents and significantly younger siblings in the neighboring village.

After 26 years and as many Macbeth novels, Beaton hasn't lost her touch with this series.  She even has another series featuring a female protagonist, Agatha Raisin, which also has a large readership.  Although Hamish has proven himself over and over to be a great detective, people can still be fooled into thinking that he is a stupid person based on his mild-mannered ways and seeming obliviousness to everything around him.  Don't let him fool you though, nothing gets past Constable Macbeth, and I think any of us would be lucky to have Hamish call us "friend."