Death of a Valentine by M.C. Beaton (audio)

This is my first experience with M.C. Beaton, who I know is popular for both her Agatha Raisin series and her Hamish Macbeth series, of which this is one. You know me, I’m unafraid to jump in mid-series; and when it comes to audiobooks, I’ll take what I can get, which is how I ended up listening to Death of a Valentine.

I’ll start on a positive note. I liked the Scottish Highlands setting, with those local-flavor items like food & culture, and particularly in audio form when I was able to get the accent as well. Hamish Macbeth is an unoriginal but likeable bachelor policeman, unhappy with his recent promotion to Sergeant, which has landed him with an assistant. And here is my first negative: the assistant, Constable Jodie McSween, is intolerable. She became a policewoman more or less by accident, and has always capitalized on her good looks and general affability to get by. She has no interest in or aptitude for police work. And her raison d’être in Macbeth’s precinct of Lochdubh is… to land him as her husband. Never mind that all those good-looking, intelligent, proficient policewomen (and other professional women) out there just took a blow from this miserable character. She didn’t do this book any good, either.

The mystery story is unremarkable but mildly enjoyable. The local beauty queen in the next town over has been blown to bits by a letter bomb on Valentine’s Day, and as soon as the coppers start looking into things, her reputation falls apart. It becomes increasingly clear that instead of a dear, sweet, innocent, Godly little beauty, she was a manipulative jerk bent on stealing other girls’ boyfriends, and worse. And then lovestruck boys start dropping like flies. Hamish is on the case, and he’s pretty competent. There’s a rather fun interlude involving an elderly escaped lion that Hamish befriends; and he has a dog and a cat who accompany him around the countryside a good bit, and that’s nice and cute at all, although they’re not very well-developed characters. Hamish also has a small collection of female friends that he discusses his case details with (not advisable, I wouldn’t think, but this is a fairly fantastical story) and that drive Josie mad with jealousy.

But the sideplot of Josie’s love for Hamish is altogether nauseating and truly offensive. I’m pretty tolerant of the mistreatment of women in the fiction I read, when it’s in pursuit of a good story, but this is just rubbish. She’s worthless, unlikeable, mooning, needy, and dumb as dirt. Am I supposed to care about what happens to this woman? No, I join Hamish in being perplexed and annoyed by her strange behaviors. She tries to drug and date-rape him, in consummately inept fashion. I mean, really.

I finished this book. I wanted to see (hear) what would happen. I generally interpret this desire to finish a book as a redeeming quality. I don’t know, there were some cute moments, but there were also some distasteful moments. I can’t quite decide, for example, if all the moaning about marriage as a miserable end of all the fun (“those who were not married found the whole idea of a wedding romantic, and those who were had a feeling of schadenfreude that some other poor soul was about to be chained in holy matrimony”) is funny or just plain offensive. In the end, while I found some moments in Death of a Valentine cute, my overall impression leans towards a) being offended by the insufferable Josie and the depiction of women in general, and b) rolling my eyes at a ridiculous plot and underdeveloped characters. No more M.C. Beaton for me, thanks.


Note: good marks to narrator Graeme Malcolm, who was funny and heck, I don’t know Scottish accents very well but I found his amusing and convincing. I don’t hold this book against him.


Rating: 3 puppy dogs.

3 Responses

  1. Good to know. I was checking out one of the novels at the library yesterday but didn’t know enough about Beaton so I passed. Maybe I made the right choice.

  2. […] I fear: Death of a Valentine […]

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