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TOP 500 REVIEWERon April 18, 2012
This is the twentieth book in a series of cozy mysteries featuring lovable highlander, Hamish Macbeth. In charge of law and order in the town of Lochdubh and its environs in Northern Scotland, Hamish wishes nothing more than to tend to his little plot of land and make sure everyone lives in peace. Unfortunately, murder sometimes rears its ugly head, and it is up to Hamish to discover just who the miscreant is that is causing all the trouble.

As always, the book is laced with sly humor throughout that is engaging, and the dialogue creates a feeling of authenticity of place, making the book highly enjoyable. One does not read these books for their literary value. One reads them purely for the fun of it.

This time, Hamish is initially confounded when a series of malicious poison pen letters start circulating among his constituency. When a local postmistress is discover dead by hanging, with a poison pen letter left by her swinging body, Hamish believe it to be murder and not a suicide. Just who is sending these letters and murdering the locals is what Hamish seeks to discover. Of course, waiting in the wings to assist him is intrepid local reporter Elspeth Grant, who has her eye on our handsome highlander. Believe me, it is not only a story that she is looking to get.

As with all cozy mysteries, it is not so much the mystery that is of import but the characters that revolve around the mystery, and the characters are certainly quirky and entertaining, adding to the charm of the series. With the oddly endearing Hamish Macbeth, the author has created a character that is a winner. I love this series of cozy mysteries!
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Death of a Poison Pen represents a new high in the Hamish Macbeth series in terms of integrating a number of different story lines in neat and interesting fashion. Long-time fans of the series will find this book to be one of their favorites.

Jenny Ogilvie is jealous of her London colleague, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe. Priscilla is engaged to be married while Jenny has just lost her boy friend when she mentions marriage. Yet Priscilla seems obsessed with her old friend (and former unofficial fiancé) from Lochdubh, Police Constable Hamish Macbeth, and the cases they've worked on solving together. Jenny decides she would like to disturb Priscilla's cool exterior by attracting Hamish's attention. Feigning illness, she heads for Lochdubh.

Once there, Jenny is disappointed to see that Hamish doesn't fit her idea of a handsome Highlander . . . and is engaged in speaking with Elspeth Grant, a local reporter and astrologer. A lot of funny scenes follow as Jenny chases Hamish and ends up being paired instead with new reporter, Pat Mallone, who had fancied Elspeth until Jenny arrived.

But Jenny remains obsessed with the idea of solving a crime . . . even if Hamish ignores her. In the background, Jenny's London-based ideas of how to live keep getting her into trouble with the Highlanders.

Elspeth, in the meantime, finds her interest in Hamish to be dwindling as he continues to avoid becoming involved. But she recognizes Jenny as a rival and finds he competitive juices stoked.

There are also some goofy poison pen letters being received in Lochdubh and Braikie. Mrs. Wellington, the minister's wife, got one accusing her of having an affair with Hamish. Well, hardly! Hamish holds a meeting in Braikie to get copies of the notes and signatures on a petition so he can get the police in Strathbane to spend the money for a handwriting expert.

In the middle of this comedy of errors, the atmosphere turns dark when Miss Beattie, who ran the post office in Braikie, is found dead with a poison pen letter under her body. As usual, Hamish is soon disputing with Detective Chief Inspector Blair whether Miss Beattie's death is suicide . . . or murder. Before the book is over, the bodies start to pile up.

Hamish finds himself in the middle of trying to solve mysteries without earning promotion, fending off women who want him, and keeping naive people from getting into trouble. You'll enjoy the mysteries and the twists in the book.

At her best, M. C. Beaton has a fine talent to exploring irony. She draws deeply on that talent in this fine book. Enjoy!
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on May 21, 2004
Hamish Macbeth is a wonderful character. He always seems to bumble his way to a solution in the many murders that seem to occur in his area, but underneath that shambling exterior is a mind that is as sharp as a whip. The Hamish Macbeth series is one of my very favourite series, and even though Ms. Beaton has about 20 entries in the series it just never seems to get stale. The characters that we meet with every book (the wonderful, eccentric citizens of Lochdubh), plus the new ones that she introduces each time are what make this series so special. I am sad that I've now caught up to Ms. Beaton, and now I am relegated to waiting (very impatiently I might add) for the next book. I have enjoyed every minute that I've spent with Hamish in wonderful Lochdubh. In this book, Hamish has been bothered with a vicious poison pen writer in the neighbouring village of Braike. He is worried because he fears that this letter campaign is going to lead to murder, and sure enough that's what happens. He and his wonderful "lady friend" Elspeth work together to try to trap the writer and to find the murderer. It turns out that they're not one and the same. Hamish also gains the help of another young lady that is visiting Lochdubh. She said it was for a holiday, but actually her intent was to try to ensare Hamish as a form of "getting back" at her uppity friend Priscilla, who even though she is engaged to be married, still seems to carry a torch for Hamish. This series is superb entertainment, and I can give no higher accolade than that.
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on February 18, 2004
Amazingly, MC Beaton manages to maintain high quality characterization, style and plot. Each novel brings a fresh twist to what is practically a sub-genre: small-town characters who are, well, characters anywhere in the world. Tom Bodett's End of the Road crew would feel at home.
Here we have two plots running parallel. Priscilla's friend Jenny arrives from London, inappropriately dressed and citified, determined to ruffle Priscilla's feathers by romancing Hamish. Hamish, as usual, is the last to catch on. I have trouble imagining a smart career woman dashing off to the Scottish highlands on a frivolous mission, but, alas, it's not impossible. And Beaton defly evokes humor from the contrast between Jenny and the Lochdubh residents, without resorting to silliness and slapstick.
Meanwhile villagers receive poison pen letters which seem silly, but nevertheless rouse Hamish's instincts. As other reviewers have noted, Hamish's suspicions are vindicated when the postmistress's suicide turns out to be murder. Hamish, sometimes aided by his new sidekick (and possible romance) Elspeth, travels around Scotland to gather clues and ultimately solve the case. The plot twists become fairly complex but remain logical and consistent.
As usual, the murder takes second place to the lives of the characters and their misguided alliances. Hamish doesn't seem eager to settle down with anyone but his dog, Lugs, and he continues to resist promotion. Fortunately, we the readers can anticipate more adventures as Hamish fends off romance and tangles with his jealous boss.
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on February 7, 2004
The villagers of Lochdubh and nearby Braikie are being plagued with a rash of poison pen letters. And while the letters seem silly (many of the claims seem to be absolutely ludicrous), Hamish Macbeth cannot help but worry about the one letter that might provoke a murder. And true enough things take a very serious turn indeed when the postmistress of Braikie, Miss Amy Beattie, is found hanging from her ceiling, an apparent suicide. But Hamish doesn't believe that it is suicide, and insists on a proper investigation. But it is only when murder claims another victim soon after Miss Beattie that Hamish begins to suspect that this could be a very complicated and dangerous case. Fortunately for Hamish (whether he likes it or not) he's going to get a lot of help in unraveling this case: first there is his friend, reporter Elspeth Grant, willing to offer her keen insights (and more if need be); and then there is also vacationing Jenny Ogilvie, a jealous friend of Hamish's ex-fiancee, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe (whom he still hasn't completely gotten over), who's come to Lochdubh with the intention of nabbing Hamish for herself. Will Hamish discover who the murderer is before (s)he strikes again? Will Jenny succeed in her plan to seduce Hamish? More importantly, will Hamish finally get over Priscilla?
Thank God for M. C. Beaton's latest Hamish MacBeth installment! I was in the mood for something GOOD and light and amusing, and "Death of a Poison Pen" fit the bill completely. Swiftly paced and cleverly constructed (and let's not forget the authour's biting humour and her intelligent character portrayals), this latest Hamish MacBeth mystery novel was just the thing to sit down and unwind with, esp after a hard day's work of house cleaning. A real treat.
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on February 1, 2004
Someone in the small Highland town of Braikie has instituted a poison pen letter writing campaign going so far as to accuse Police Constable Hamish Macbeth of having an affair with the minister's wife. Although nobody is taking it seriously, Hamish knows it is just a matter of time before someone gets very angry and violence could be the result. When the post mistress Miss Beatie dies with a poison pen letter near her body, the police rule it a suicide.
Hamish doesn't think it is suicide and an autopsy proves him right. The thirty something year old women was poisoned and he doesn't have a clue who the culprit could be. When the retired school mistress is killed, the victim of several knife wounds Hamish knows instinctively the two killings are linked but he needs some help. His ex-girlfriend's girlfriend and the local reporter are more than willing to help the constable out.
This is the twentieth Hamish Macbeth Mystery and the series is as fresh, witty and upbeat as the day the first book in the series was published. Hamish takes his job very seriously but in his personal life when it comes to romance, he is, to put it bluntly, a doofus. This makes him adorable and endearing to readers who hope that just once he winds up with the woman he truly loves. This mystery has a fast paced plot and a descriptive look into the culture of a small Highlander village which makes DEATH OF A POISON PEN a treat not to be missed.
Harriet Klausner
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on February 29, 2004
DEATH OF A POISON PEN is set in a small village in the Scottish Highlands. It is populated with quirky characters and a lovable, bumbling, tall, red-haired constable named Hamish McBeth. Hamish is somewhat lazy and likes his little village to run smoothly, but it never does. This time around some villagers are receiving poison pen letters. A postmistress is found hanged in her room and a vacationer comes to Lochdubh with the sole purpose of seducing him. He does have his hands full these days.
I consider the Hamish McBeth series the better of the two series that M.C. Beaton writes. The characters really make the stories endearing and fun. That Hamish ever solves any case always seems like sheer fluke, but you are always rooting for him. The plots are always rather straightforward and not too complicated and it makes for a quick read. This is a perfect book for a rainy afternoon.
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on February 18, 2004
I can't get enough of M.C. Beaton's Highlands. I look forward every year to the next installment to the Hamish Macbeth series. This one did not disappoint complete with the vintage quirkiness and touch of noir that characterize all of Beaton's series'.
The mystery kept me guessing until the end but the real entertainment lies in watching the unorthodox but lovable Hamish Macbeth interact with his similarly offbeat villagers.
I'll continue to wait with anticipation for more Hamish Macbeth--hoping for his success in love and wondering what other calamity can possibly befall the tiny hamlet of Lochdubh.
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on February 20, 2004
This installment of the Hamish McBeth series was one of the best. I enjoyed my visit to Lochdubh immensely and catching up with old friends. I loved how the town showed how much they respected and cared for their unorthodox policeman. The mystery itself wasn't a strong one but the characters and setting more than made up for it. Hamish and company is a delightful way to spend an afternoon. I cannot wait for the next one!
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on February 4, 2016
Was fun to read but kept me wondering who did it.
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