Death of a Glutton is the eighth Hamish Macbeth mystery. It's the beautiful days of summer in Lochdubh, days that are soon to be replaced with cold and rain. Hamish is looking forward to enjoying these tranquil days while they last. But that hope is soon frustrated.
The Tommel Castle Hotel (formerly the home of Colonel and Mrs. Hallburton-Smythe and their daughter Priscilla before the Colonel lost his capital) is booming. But when a fishing party cancels at the last minute, the Colonel finds he may have to lower his social standards to fill the hotel. This fear is turned into a reality when Maria Worth books the hotel for Checkmate Singles Club, which matches up matrimonial prospects from among the well-to-do. Maria has invited eight people who want to marry well and thinks she has just the prospect for each one. Immediately, each one takes a dislike to the person Maria has in mind for them, but things seem to be proceeding anyway when they strike up conversations with other singles in the group.
Those plans are put seriously awry, however, when her not-so-silent partner, Peta Gore, shows up uninvited with her voluptuous, but self-centered, young niece, Crystal. The men flock to Crystal until they find she's dull. That enrages the women. Peta turns out to be a world-class overeater with the worst possible manners. Colonel Hallburton-Smythe takes his wife and heads out, leaving this troublesome party to Priscilla and Mr. Johnson to tend.
The story builds around Peta's eating. There's a memorable picnic involving a wee trip in the ocean that has humorous consequences. The chef becomes so enraged by Peta's behavior that he takes a bet he can feed her a most unappetizing source of protein and she'll be delighted.
Hamish thinks that all he has to do is to save the hotel's reputation. Things take a different turn when Peta first turns up missing, leaving behind a curious note, and is later found dead . . . with an apple crammed down her throat.
Who did it? And why? Hamish makes a bigger hash out of the investigation than usual . . . but does eventually put his finger on the guilty party.
Hoping for central heating in his wee police station, he ends with up two unexpected surprises instead.
The main appeal of this story comes in the outrageous burlesque of Peta's eating methods. That part is nicely developed. The other characters, by comparison, are pretty uninteresting and not especially attractive either. But their cardboard outlines do help fill out the story line. The mystery isn't very mysterious. The clues are everywhere.
My impression is that M.C. Beaton intended each of these characters to be pretty funny to the readers. I think she missed in that attempt. Instead, I found them all-too-pathetically familiar. The humor needed to be exaggerated more to work.
One of the other good aspects of the book comes in the humorous ways that Hamish and Priscilla mangle their relationship whenever it starts to warm up a bit. Priscilla finds herself becoming more than a little jealous of one of Hamish's admirers which helps set up the fun.
The villagers and Towser take back seat in this book which makes the story seem less authentic somehow.
Watch what you eat!