This is book 6 in the Hamish Macbeth series by Beaton, though the first in the series that I have read. This is a book I’d featured in Shelf Control #9, and since I finally read it, I decided to share my review here. This one finds Hamish ill in bed with a cold, looking forward to going home for Christmas, only to be told that he can’t go home because an aunt who hates him, but has supported his family, is arriving from the States. Grumpy and upset, Hamish then accepts an invitation to spend Christmas at the Happy Wanderer health farm, the owner of which is Jane Wetherby, a friend of Priscilla, Macbeth’s former love and still friend. Jane is convinced by some happenings in the village of Eileencraig where the farm is located, including the reading of her tea leaves, that someone is out to kill her, and while Hamish is not as convinced, he agrees to go anyway, having nowhere else to spend the holiday. But while Jane seems to be ok, there is a suspicious death after Christmas nonetheless, and only Hamish seems to suspect that it is murder. He sets out to investigate, assisted by Harriet Shaw, a writer of cookbooks and also a friend of Jane Wetherby.
This was a light-hearted, pretty much cosy murder mystery which I found to be great fun, and which I enjoyed far more than the author’s Agatha Raisin books (of which also I have read only one so far). I loved the Christmassy atmosphere—the book isn’t heavy on it, but there are the preparations going on, the tree being decorated, the Christmas dinner at the health farm, and the presents which felt nice and ‘warm’ in the otherwise snowy and bitter cold place. And I also enjoyed the Scottish setting, all of the mystery taking place on a small island village in a community that hasn’t been very welcoming of Jane Wetherby and her farm. While we don’t go into very much depth into each of the characters (like some mystery books do), each of them is distinct and the features do stand out. The mystery element was also fairly interesting and fun, and I enjoyed the solution to it, even though it wasn’t terribly complex or any such. Still this was entertaining and fun, and I would like to read more in this series. Be warned, this book discusses the entire plot of one Agatha Christie Poirot mystery (I won’t say which) with spoilers as to whodunit (though not the why) and while it doesn’t give the name, if you haven’t read that one yet, it will spoil it for you. I had read the book, so it was much of an issue for me.