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BEYOND A JOKE
on 23 May 2010
Relatives are invited to a remote mansion, it destined soon to be cut off by snow. Aged host Andrew Trent is someone they all hate, but he has much money which is why they are there - prepared to endure the jokes he loves inflicting. Tensions rise and soon he is dead. Suspects include his brother and his sharp-tongued wife, two spinster daughters, a couple of young ones with their possibly avaricious consorts, not to mention the gamekeeper and two Spanish servants. Hamish Macbeth investigates, again more successfully than his seniors Blair and Daviot - although on this occasion triumph owes a lot to a whopping unlikely occurrence.
As ever, it is Hamish who elevates the book - he rising above some rather tired cliches. It is good to see Priscilla more actively involved, but their relationship has yet to develop as positively as most readers may wish.
The book has some appeal, as indeed they all do - in varying degrees. Dare one suggest, though, that M.C. Beaton at times really seems to be struggling to concoct murders worthy of Hamish's attention? (The DEATH in each title could be a straitjacket.) The constable convinces but the cases tend not to and are unlikely to linger in the memory. On the other hand, readers may long recall with satisfaction how Hamish secured central heating for his police house....