I have been a huge fan of M.C. Beaton--particularly the Hamish Macbeth series--for so long that I get very excited every time I see a new book in the series. So excited, in fact, that I seem to forget all of the problems the books have had over the years, especially recently.
When I first started reading them, I was charmed by the backwards village of Lochdubh in the Scottish Highlands, a place that seemed untouched by modernity and was, as a result, at least twenty years behind the values of modern society. Villagers all knew each other and worried more about raising sheep and catching fish than, say, keeping up with the stock market or latest celebrity gossip. Of course, people would also gloss over drunk driving and spousal abuse as "private matters" and would be shocked by outsiders with their flashy clothes and promiscuous ways. Independent women, artists, homosexuals and anyone with a non-Scottish accent were criticized harshly. Still, I stuck with the books because I understood why the village would be twenty years or so behind the times. They were isolated in the Highlands and slow to change.
But now the series itself is nearly thirty years old (the first book was published in 1985, I believe) and not much has changed. It's hard to keep thinking of the villagers' small-mindedness as "charming" when they are now closer to fifty years behind the times.
And it's not just the cultural values that are hopelessly (and implausibly) stagnant. It's also Hamish himself. He still, after nearly three decades, pines for the beautiful Priscilla, his one-time fiancée (they were engaged for, I would say, less than an hour but it was evidently enough to make him moan about it for the rest of his natural life). He still considers the option of marrying his perennial second choice, Elspeth. I understand the series is supposed to have a "timeless" quality, but if we were to consider that time were passing--even slowly--we would have to accept that Hamish was at least in his fifties or sixties by now, still waiting to settle down with one of the women he dated decades ago.
So maybe we're supposed to think that no time passes at all. But it doesn't mitigate the repetitiveness of the books. In every single book you can expect that Hamish's irritation will be expressed by his accent becoming more "sibilant" (if you can find a book in the series that does not use that exact word, I'll give you a nickel). In nearly every book, he will go to the town's one Italian restaurant where he will be served by Willie Lamont while the villagers gossip about him and his female companion, whoever she may be. In nearly every book, he will leave the care of his dog and his wild cat to his (only) friend, Angela Brodie, wife of Dr. Brodie. In nearly every book he will be nearly thwarted by his boss, Blair, only to solve the crime on his own.
After nearly thirty books in as many years, I'm not sure I want to hear the same details over and over and over and over again. It seems the only thing that has evolved in this series is the body count.
Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.