A Highland Christmas by M.C. Beaton

Earlier this year I read M.C. Beaton’s latest Hamish Macbeth mystery, book number 23 in the series, Death of a Maid. It was the first book in the series that I’d read, and although I enjoyed it, I never got around to reviewing it here. What I remember about it now was the denouement which involved large mobs of people in a comic stand-off with the government and Hamish Macbeth, a policeman in a small Scottish village, having to navigate his way between the villagers and the forces of officialdom.

At the beginning of December when I wrote about Rex Stout’s birthday and gave a list of Christmas-themed mysteries, Cindy of Dominion Family suggested Ms. Beaton’s Christmas story also featuring Policeman Macbeth. It’s short (129 pages), sweet, and perfect for a gentle holiday read. No one dies, a nice change from the book I read just previous to this one in which scores of people die in a particularly nasty mass murder. All we have here is a lost cat, a little girl who has never been allowed to celebrate Christmas, and a Christmas concert at the old folks’ home. Oh, and Hamish Macbeth stumbles into and out of a sort of a dating relationship, which seems to be his wont as far as I can tell from the two books featuring this detective that I’ve read.

I think I’ll pick up another Hamish Macbeth novel from time to time and immerse myself in a gently droll picture of a Scots highland village with a bit of mystery to stir the pot. (However, the others do have “death” in the title and are in that way more traditional murder mysteries.)

First paragraphs of A Highland Christmas by M.C. Beaton:

More and more people each year are going abroad for Christmas. To celebrate the season of goodwill towards men, British Airways slams an extra one hundred and four pounds on each air ticket. But the airports are still jammed.

For so many people are fleeing Christmas. . . .

But in Lochdubh, in Sutherland, in the very far north of Scotland, there is nothing to flee from. Christmas, thought Hamish Macbeth gloomily, as he walked along the waterfront, his shoulders hunched against a tearing wind, was not coming to Lochdubh this year any more than it had come the previous years.”

A Highland Christmas, rather than being a traditional murder mystery, is the story of how Christmas came one year to Lochdubh in spite of the leftover spirit of John Knox which “still wandered, blasting anyone with hellfire should they dare to celebrate this heathen festival.”

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