Celebrated author John Heppel is known in Lochdubh as a self-important bore, prone to belittling the scribblings of the locals in his creative writing class. So when he's found dead, his mouth oozing ink, it seems a fitting fate.
But for PC Hamish Macbeth the murder is more than a disruption to idyllic village life - especially when the media arrive, trailing in their wake DCI Heather Meikle, a maneater with a taste for bachelor police constables. Hamish must rekindle an old flame to escape her clutches and pull out all the stops to find the killer . . .
A sudden outbreak of maliciousness strikes the town of Lochdubh in the form of a rash of poison pen letters. Things turn deadly when the local postmistress is found hanged in her room... with a vicious note beneath her dangling feet. Though his superiors call it suicide, PC Hamish Macbeth pronounces it murder. But Hamish is soon distracted by Jenny Ogilvie, a friend of his ex-fiancee, who arrives in Lochdubh to seduce him. And then he's ambushed by local reporter Elspeth Grant, who sets out to land the story - and Hamish - for herself.
Caught in the middle of this volatile case, Hamish faces dangerous romances... and a blackhearted culprit wielding a mighty - and lethal - pen.
Mrs Gentle has fooled everyone into thinking she is as sweet as she sounds - Gentle by name and gentle by nature. But local constable Hamish Macbeth isn't fooled. He believes this little old lady is actually quite sly and vicious, but he's in a minority of one. Or is he?
When Mrs Gentle dies under unusual circumstances the villagers of Lochdubh are shocked and outraged. Chief Detective Inspector Blair suspects that members of her family may be involved but Hamish thinks there's much more to the story - and is willing to get rough to solve the riddle of Mrs Gentle's mysterious demise.
Hamish Macbeth is savouring the delights of a Highland summer, but as fast as the rain rolls in from the loch his happy life goes to hell in a handbasket.
The trouble begins when his beloved Priscilla Halburton-Smythe returns to Lochdubh with a new fiancé on her arm. His miseries multiply when clouds of midges descend on the town. And then a paragon of housewife perfection named Trixie Thomas moves into Lochdubh with her cowed husband in tow.
The newcomer quickly convinces the local ladies to embrace low-cholesterol meals, ban alcohol and begin bird-watching. Soon the town's menfolk are up in arms and Macbeth must solve Lochdubh's newest crime - the mysterious poisoning of the perfect wife.
When society widow and gossip columnist Lady Jane Winters joins the local fishing class she wastes no time in ruffling the feathers - or should that be fins? - of those around her.
Among the victims of her sharp tongue is Lochdubh constable Hamish Macbeth, yet not even Hamish thinks someone would seriously want to silence Lady Jane's shrill voice permanently - until her strangled body is fished out of the river.
Now with the help of the lovely Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, Hamish must steer a course through the choppy waters of the tattler's life to find a murderer. But with a school of suspects who aren't willing to talk, and the dead woman telling no tales, Hamish may well be in over his head for he knows that secrets are dangerous, knowledge is power, and killers when cornered usually do strike again.
James Harrison has recently moved to a restored hunting lodge in Sutherland with his gorgeous private nurse Gloria Dainty. When Hamish visits Mr. Harrison to welcome him to the neighborhood, the old man treats him very rudely. Gloria apologises for her employer's behavior, and Hamish takes the plunge and invites her out for dinner.
On the appointed evening, Hamish waits for Gloria at the restaurant. And waits. But Gloria never shows up.
Four days later, Gloria's body washes up on the beach near Braikie. She's been strangled. Now, without a date and without his former policeman Dick Fraser - who left the force to buy a bakery - Hamish must find out who killed the beautiful new resident of Sutherland, and why, before the murderer strikes again.
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