Every so often I love to dive onto one of my few guilty pleasures and this time instead of my usual dip into the Crabs horror books by Guy N. Smith which I would recommend as perhaps the ultimate in horror farce, I delved into the Hamish MacBeth series, Death of a Dreamer.
The odd thing about these books is that really I shouldn’t enjoy them much at all, there are a whole slew of reasons for me to not like them, yet here I am writing an overview after finishing the 22nd book in the series of 30, so far. I’m not a huge Cosy Crime fan but I do like a few easy books to read in between the more thought-provoking ones. I was ensnared by the simplicity of the stories, the gentleness of the setting (ignoring the murders for that point) and the speed with which I can get through them, usually within a few hours.
Set in Lockdubh, the stories, not surprisingly, revolve around PC Hamish MacBeth. I feel a lot for Hamish, he is seen as unambitious because he loves the village where his beat is, a picturesque place that all outsiders think beautiful and want to live there. Yet everybody views him as a failure which indicative of today’s society which demands you earn more and do better in your job continually, moving upward otherwise you are a deemed unambitious. It is strange that nobody seems content to just do something and be somewhere they are happy with.
suspending disbelief is key to the books of course, I would have questioned this highland hotspot of murder a long time ago if I was the police but where would be the fun in that? There is a curious sense of dislocation about the whole thing, there is little in the way of reference to the number of previous murders that have occurred, nothing other than a brief nod for the reader of a singular case usually from the previous book.
Okay fair enough that is an easy one to dismiss when in a familiar world, what annoys me though is the lack of momentum to Lochdubh. The characters don’t seem to ever evolve except the odd one being allowed to change a certain thing in their lives, when that is done though it is for the sake of the plot and not to any sort of character building way. With no fleshing out of the shallow nature of the characters, it renders them vehicles that often seem boiled down to clichés. Whether these people are overly stereotyped or not, is not something I can really judge on but they do feel it.
The plots themselves are of varying quality and sometimes include things that are so ridiculous it pulls the reader out of a world that is already teetering on the edge of belief. This is not helped either by the repetition of certain phrases which become familiar quickly and are noticeable throughout the series to the point that they become irritating to the reader that tackles them all.
If you wish to have a read, you’ll have to start at the beginning as there is a connecting story arc that runs through the books which is all about Hamish’s love life that in itself is tenuous and mildly annoying…in fact a couple of recurring points in the series feel like the author either has no wish to bring conclusions as long as readers keep buying her novels or she has no suitable strong plans in place for dealing with them. Either way a change in circumstances would be welcome.
Despite having vented over all of that, they are still a curiously addictive read and I do find it a decent way to spend time. With the 23rd and 24th installments already on the shelf I will happily keep reading despite my huge list of complaints. Despite formulaic plots and no much forward momentum, I will continue to read these books and enjoy them, even if I can’t quite understand why.