Death of a Dentist (Hamish Macbeth Series #13)

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Overview

A blinding toothache sends Hamish Macbeth 120 miles out of Lochdubh to the dentist Frederick Gilchrist, only to find him dead. Since everyone is pleased the dentist is deceased—patients, several harassed women, and even his wife—Macbeth faces one of the more biting challenges of his career.

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Death of a Dentist (Hamish Macbeth Series #13)

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Overview

A blinding toothache sends Hamish Macbeth 120 miles out of Lochdubh to the dentist Frederick Gilchrist, only to find him dead. Since everyone is pleased the dentist is deceased—patients, several harassed women, and even his wife—Macbeth faces one of the more biting challenges of his career.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As fresh and warmly appealing after 13 adventures as he was in the series debut, rural Scottish copper Hamish Macbeth (Death of a Macho Man; Death of a Nag, etc.) discovers that a sore tooth can be murder in this nimble new tale. When Hamish shows up for his emergency appointment with Dr. Gilchrist, he finds the much-maligned dentist not only dead but also with all his teeth drilled. The dentist had an eye for the ladies, and his conquests included an ex-wife, his current receptionist and the tarty girl behind the chemist's counter. Gilchrist also left behind a large pile of bills. Hamish gets computer-hacking help from a pretty hitchhikerwhich is a good thing, because, as usual, his citified superiors try to push him to the far sidelines of the investigation. Hamish is convinced that the dentist's demise is linked to the theft of bingo prize money at a seedy local hotel and to two gnomish brothers' illegal whisky production, which has clearly progressed well beyond the cottage-industry level. Beaton lavishes so much affection on her laconic copper that it's well nigh impossible not to fall for ace moocher Hamish, with his quick mind, deceptively simple manner and accursed luck with the fairer sex. Mystery Guild featured alternate. (Aug.) FYI: Zenith Productions, which brought Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse to television, has finished filming its adaptations of the Hamish Macbeth novels.
Library Journal
Desperate for relief, Scottish constable Hamish Macbeth takes his toothache to a nearby dentist with a lousy reputation. Unfortunately, he discovers the man dead of nicotine poisoning. As he investigates, Hamish finds that the victim had many enemies, including his own wife. A reliable series (Death of a Macho Man, LJ 6/1/96).
Marilyn Stasio
An enchanting series... -- New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Hamish Macbeth, the one-man police force of Lochdubh, a village in the Scottish Highlands (Death of a Macho Man, 1996, etc.), wakes up one morning with a toothache that drives him to Dr. Gilchrist, a butcher of a dentist in nearby Braikie. Arriving for his appointment, Hamish finds Maggie Bane, the receptionist, absent and the dentist dead—poisoned, as it turns out, and seated in the patient's chair, each of his teeth drilled. Hamish's superior and archenemy, Detective Chief Inspector Blair, at headquarters in Strathbane, wants no help from Hamish, so he must conduct his inquiries stealthily. He has the help of Sarah Hudson, a friend of Hamish's onetime love Priscilla Halburton-Smythe. Sarah knows how to use Hamish's computer to hack into police records at headquarters. Meanwhile, Hamish does his legwork—talking to Maggie, Blair's chief suspect; to Gilchrist's ex-wife in Inverness; to Kylie Fraser, a tarty clerk at the local pharmacy—exploring Gilchrist's womanizing reputation and trying to make a connection between his death and a recent big-bucks robbery at the sleazy Scotsman hotel where even the manager's slatternly wife was an early conquest of Gilchrist's. Matters are further complicated by rumors of a massive illegal that's still being run by the vile Smiley brothers. This one gets Hamish into trouble, big-time, and brings a rescue by Sarah, but not until another murder is committed do all the loose ends come together. An unusually energetic Hamish (in this 13th appearance): a cast of engaging locals with full-blown Highland accents, and a mildly intriguing storyline provide comfort food for Hamish's many fans.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446606011
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 7/28/1998
  • Series: Hamish Macbeth Series , #13
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 264,173
  • Product dimensions: 6.58 (w) x 4.78 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

M. C. Beaton lives in the Cotswolds with her husband. In addition to the Hamish Macbeth series, she writes the Agatha Raisin mystery series.

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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One


For there was never yet a philosopher,
That could endure the toothache patiently.
— William Shakespeare


It was a chill autumn in the Highlands of Scotland when Police Constable Hamish Macbeth awoke in hell.

The whole side of his jaw was a burning mass of pain.

Toothache. The sort of toothache so bad you cannot tell which tooth is infected because the pain runs through them all.

His dentist was in Inverness and he felt he could not bear the long drive. Lochdubh, the village in which his police station was situated, did not boast a dentist. The nearest one was at Braikie, a small town twenty miles away. The dentist there was Frederick Gilchrist.

The problem was that Hamish Macbeth still had all his teeth and meant to keep them all and Mr. Gilchrist had a reputation for pulling out teeth rather than saving them, which suited the locals, who still preferred to have their teeth drawn and a "nice" set of dentures put in. Also Gilchrist, in these days of high dental charges, was cheap.

One summer visitor complained bitterly that Gilchrist had performed The Great Australian Trench on her. Australian dentists had gained the unfair reputation for casually letting the drill slide across as many teeth as possible, therefore getting themselves a lucrative and steady customer. And although Mr. Gilchrist was Scottish, he was reputed to have performed this piece of supposedly Australian malpractice. Mrs. Harrison, a local widow, alleged nastily that she had been sexually molested by Gilchrist while unconscious under gas, but Mrs. Harrison was a strangewoman who always seemed to think every man was lusting after her and so her charge was not taken very seriously, and as she had not reported it to the police, but only to everyone else who would listen, there had been no excuse for Hamish Macbeth to take the matter further.

And yet the pain was so fierce that by the time he had dressed, he had argued himself into sacrificing one tooth.

He dialled Gilchrist's number. Gilchrist's receptionist, Maggie Bane, answered the telephone and to Hamish's frantic appeal for help said sourly he would just need to come along and take his chances. Mr. Gilchrist was very busy. Come at three and maybe he'll fit you in.

Hamish then went to the bathroom and scrabbled in the kitchen cabinet, looking for aspirin and found none. He petulantly slammed the cabinet door shut. It fell off the wall into the handbasin, and cracked the porcelain of the handbasin before sending large shards of glass from its shattered glass doors onto the bathroom floor.

He looked at his watch through a red mist of pain. Eight o'clock in the morning. Dear God, he wouldn't live until the afternoon. A sorry, lanky figure in his worn police uniform, he left the police station and made his way rapidly along the waterfront to Dr. Brodie's home.

Angela, the doctor's wife, answered the door in her dressing gown. "Why, Hamish, you're early," she cried.

"I need help," moaned Hamish. "I'm dying."

"Come in. He's in the kitchen."

Dr. Brodie, wrapped in a camel hair dressing gown, looked up as Hamish entered, a piece of toast and marmalade halfway to his lips. "Hamish!" he said. "You look like death."

"You've got to give me something quick," gabbled Hamish, grabbing his arm. "I am in the mortal pain. I haff the toothache."

"You look as if you've got mad cow disease," said Dr. Brodie sourly, jerking his arm away. "Oh, very well, Hamish. Sit yourself down while I get my bag."

Hamish sank down in a chair and clutched his jaw. One of Angela's cats leapt lightly on the table, studied Hamish with curious eyes and then began to drink the milk out of the jug.

Dr. Brodie came back with his bag, opened it, and took out a small torch. "Now, open wide Hamish. Which one is it?"

"It feels like all of them," said Hamish. He opened his mouth and pointed to the lower left of his jaw.

Dr. Brodie shone the torch in his mouth. "Ah, yes, nasty."

"Nasty what?" demanded Hamish.

"You've got an abscess there. The bottom right-hand molar. Ugh! I don't know that a dentist could treat you until it's cleared up. I'll give you a shot of antibiotic. I'll need to go to the surgery. Stay here and Angela'll get you a coffee. I'll need to get dressed."

"Where am I getting this injection?"

"In the backside."

"Then I will be coming with you."

"Why?"

Hamish blushed. "I do not want your wife seeing my bare bum."

Dr. Brodie laughed. "I'm glad there's one woman left in this village you don't want to show your bum to."

When he had gone upstairs to change, Hamish whimpered, "No coffee, Angela. I'm in such awfy pain, I couldnae get it past my lips."

"You're nothing but a big baby, Hamish Macbeth," said Angela, her thin face lighting up with amusement.

"Women!" said Hamish sourly. "All that talk about maternal feelings and womanly sympathy is chust the myth."

"If the abscess is that bad, why did you let it go so far?"

"I felt a few twinges," muttered Hamish, "but, och, I thought I had the cold in the face."

Angela smiled again at him, sat down at the coffee table, grabbed the cat by the scruff of the neck and dragged its face out of the milk jug, poured some in her coffee, and picked up a book, saying before she started to read, "I am sure you do not feel like talking."

Hamish glared at her and nursed his jaw. Dr. Brodie eventually appeared. "Let's get to the surgery, Hamish, and spare your blushes."

They walked silently along the waterfront. The day was cold and still. Smoke from the cottage chimneys rose straight up into the clear air. A heron sailed lazily over the sea loch. The village of Lochdubh in Sutherland — that county which is as far north in mainland Britain as you can go — dreamed in the pale sunlight making one sad constable feel like a noisy riot of pain.

Once in the surgery, Dr. Brodie injected Hamish with a stiff shot of antibiotics, gave him a prescription for antibiotic pills and told him to go home and lie down. Hamish had told him about the appointment with Gilchrist. "You'd best cancel it," said Dr. Brodie, "until that abscess has cleared up. You don't want to go to Gilchrist anyway. He'll pull the tooth and there's no need for that these days. You'd be better off in Inverness. There's been some awfully nasty stories about Gilchrist circling about."

Hamish crept off back to the police station. He had bought a bottle of aspirin from Patel's, the local supermarket on the road there. He took three aspirin, swallowing them down with a stiff glass of whisky. He undressed slowly and climbed back into bed, willing the pain to go away. To take his mind off the pain, he began to think of Gilchrist and all the rumours about the man, and then he suddenly fell asleep.

He awoke two hours later. The pain had almost gone, but he was frightened to get out of bed in case that dreadful pain came roaring back. He clasped his hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling. He missed his dog, Towser, who had died so suddenly. Towser would have lain on the end of the bed and wagged his tail and he, Hamish, would have felt that someone in the whole wide world cared about his suffering. Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, the once love of his life, had gone to London to stay with friends and no other woman had come along to fill the gap left by her going. They had once been unofficially engaged, but he had broken off the relationship because of Priscilla's odd coldness when he had tried to make love to her. He missed her, but he tried to tell himself that missing Priscilla had simply become a habit.

His thoughts then turned to Gilchrist and his Highland curiosity about the dentist was fully roused. Hamish had never met the man. He would phone up and say he could not see him that day and then he would make another appointment. If Gilchrist showed any signs of removing the tooth, he would remove himself from that dentist's chair and go to Inverness. But that way he would be able to see the dentist and form his own opinion. It was all so easy to lose one's reputation in the Highlands of Scotland where one tall tale was embellished and passed around and another added to it.

The phone rang shrilly from the police station office. He got gingerly out of bed and went to answer it. It was from the owner of a hotel fifteen miles away on the Lairg road, complaining he had been burgled the night before.

Hamish promised to be over as soon as he could, dressed again, got into the police Land Rover and drove out to The Scotsman Hotel where the burglary had taken place. He expected to find vandalism, broken windows, the bar a mess, but it transpired that the break-in had been a professional one. The safe in the office had been broken into and the week's takings stolen.

The safe looked heavy and massive and the door undamaged.

"How did they get into that?" he asked, pushing back his peaked cap and scratching his fiery red hair.

The manager, Brian Macbean, nodded to two men, who swung the safe round.

"Oh, my," said Hamish. For the back of the safe had been made of a panel of chipboard which the burglar had simply sawn through.

He took out his notebook. "Can we sit down, Mr. Macbean, and I'll take some notes. Then I'll phone Strathbane and get them to send a forensic team over. How much was in the safe?"

"Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds."

"What on earth were you doing keeping that amount of money on the premises?"

"It's the giant prize for this Saturday night's bingo session. Man, we've got folk coming from every part of the Highlands."

"So someone knew about it, and someone knew about the back of the safe."

Macbean, a squat, burly man with thinning hair, looked morose. "The big bingo night's been in all the local papers, so it has."

"But why cash?" Hamish was puzzled. "A cheque would ha' done."

"That was the attraction. It was all in twenty pound notes. All the press photographers were coming. It would have made the grand picture, some winner with all those notes."

Hamish licked the end of his pencil. "So why the wooden back on the safe?"

"I needed a safe and there was this one over at the auction rooms in Inverness. I thought that would do me fine."

"And probably charged the owners for a real safe."

Macbean looked mulishly at the floor and did not reply.

Hamish patiently took him through exactly when the theft had been discovered and then said, "Who knew the safe had a wooden back?"

"The barman, Johnny King, and one of the waiters, Peter Sampson. They helped me bring it back from Inverness."

"What about your family?"

"Well, of course they knew. My wife, Agnes, and my girl, Darleen."

Hamish racked through his mind for any gossip he might have heard about Macbean's family, but could think of nothing in particular. "I'll need to interview the barman and the waiter," he said, "and then I'll talk to your wife and daughter."

"Whit! Leave my family out of it."

"Don't be daft, Mr. Macbean. They might have seen something or heard something. How old is Darleen?"

"Twenty-two."

"Where is she now?"

"She's over at the dentist in Braikie with her mother."

Gilchrist again, thought Hamish, and then realised with a sort of glad wonder that the hellish pain in his tooth had subsided.

"How come a Highland hotel can afford to offer such a huge money prize?"

"We run the bingo nights all year round with small prizes and the profits are put in the bank. I drew the big money out of the bank in the middle of the week."

"I'll just use the phone there," he said, "and call Strathbane, and then I'll take a look around."

Detective Chief Inspector Blair when contacted said he was busy on a drugs job but would send his sidekick, Jimmy Anderson, over with a forensic team.

Hamish examined the hotel office. Apart from the gaping hole in the back of the safe, there was no other sign of a break-in that he could see. "You discovered this in the morning," he said. "What was going on here last night?"

"There was a ceilidh."

"How many people?"

"About a hundred or so. But the office was locked."

Hamish examined the office door. It was wooden with a frosted-glass panel. The lock was a simple Yale one, easily picked.

The barman and the waiter were brought in. Hamish questioned them closely. They hadn't finished their duties until one in the morning and then had gone straight to bed. The barman, Johnny King, was a sinister-looking man in his thirties with his hair worn in a ponytail and his thin face marred by a long scar. Peter Sampson, the waiter, was a small, smooth-faced youth of about twenty.

After he had finished interviewing them, Hamish walked around the public rooms of the hotel. It was typical of the more depressing type of Highland hotel, everything in pine and plastic and with the once gaudy carpets looking as if they badly needed shampooing. Tartan curtains hung at the windows and the walls were ornamented with plastic claymores and plastic shields along with bad murals of depressing historical events like the Battle of Culloden and the Massacre of Glencoe. The artist had not liked Bonnie Prince Charlie, for there he was with a cowardly look on his white face fleeing the Battle of Culloden. And he hadn't liked the Campbells either, witness their savage and gleeful faces as they massacred the Macdonalds of Glencoe.

"What's the polis doing here?" demanded a shrill voice behind him.

He swung round. A small blonde middle-aged woman stood glaring at him. Her hair was wound around a forest of pink plastic rollers and a cigarette hung from thin lips, painted orange. Beside her stood a tall, sulky girl in micro skirt and black suede thigh boots, fringed suede jacket and purple blouse. Her makeup was dead-white, her lipstick purple and her black hair gelled into spikes.

"Mrs. Macbean?"

"Aye, what's it to you?"

"The safe in the office was broken into last night, Mrs. Macbean," explained Hamish patiently.

"The bingo money! It's gone?"

"All gone," said Hamish.

"Cool," said Darleen. Her eyes were flat and dead. Valium or sheer bovine stupidity, thought Hamish.

"Where is he?" demanded Mrs. Macbean.

"In the office," said Hamish, and then turned away as he heard cars driving up outside.

He went out to meet the contingent from Strathbane.

Detective Jimmy Anderson's foxy features lit up in a grin when he saw Hamish.

"If it isnae Mr. Death hisself," he said cheerfully. "Where's the body? Wi' the great Hamish Macbeth on the scene, there's bound to be a body."

"No body. The safe's been broken into like I told you. I figure someone from the hotel did it."

"Aye, maybe, Hamish. But what makes you think that?"

"I chust have this feeling."

"The seer of Lochdubh," jeered Jimmy. "Man, I could murder a dram. Any chance of them opening up that bar?"

"You shouldnae be thinking o' drinking on duty," said Hamish primly.

"Och, Hamish, it's only on the TV that they say things like that."

"And in police regulations."

"If you paid any attention to police regulations, you would smarten up that horrible uniform. Your trousers are so shiny I can see ma face in them."

"Are we going to investigate this," snapped Hamish, "or are we going to stand here all day trading insults?"

"Where's the body, then?" said Jimmy with a sigh.

"If you mean the safe, it's in the office. Afore you go in, Jimmy, is there any gossip about Macbean?"

"Not that I've heard. Somat Enterprises, a Glasgow company who owns this place, employed him two years ago. The food's rotten and the drinks are suspect, but they come for the bingo and the dancing. You know how it is, Hamish, it's not as if Sutherland is a swinging place. No competition. Oh, well, lead the way."

Macbean was standing outside the office in the entrance hall. Through the open office door, the white-coated forensic team were busy dusting everything for fingerprints.

"Damn," muttered Hamish. "Two of the men turned the safe around. Their fingerprints will be on it."

"I'll tell them," said Jimmy.

"You stupid fool," Mrs. Macbean suddenly shouted in her husband's face. One pink roller shaken loose by her rage fell onto the carpet. "I tellt ye that safe was silly. But you had tae go and dae things on the cheap."

"Shut your face," growled Macbean, "and go and do something to yourself. You look a right fright with them curlers in."

Hamish's tooth gave a sinister twinge. "Wait a bit, Mrs. Macbean," he said, "you went to the dentist in Braikie."

"Aye."

"What's Gilchrist like?"

She looked at him in amazement. "It wisnae me. It was Darleen that had the toothache."

Hamish turned questioningly to Darleen, who was slumped against the wall, studying her long purple fingernails.

"Darleen?"

She suddenly opened her mouth and pointed to the bottom front row of her teeth where there was a gap.

"He pulled your tooth?"

"Too right."

"Couldn't he have saved it?"

"Whit fur?"

"Because teeth can be saved these days."

Darleen stifled a yawn. "No shit, Sherlock."

"Whit the hell are you asking questions about some poxy dentist when you're supposed to be finding out who burgled my safe?" howled Macbean.

"I'm working on something else," said Hamish.

Jimmy Anderson came out of the office. "Okay, I'll take you one at a time. There's no need for you any mair, Hamish. You can get back to your sheep dip papers or whatever exciting things you usually do in Lochdubh."

Hamish went reluctantly. There was an odd smell of villainy about the hotel. "I'll type up my notes for you," he said stiffly to Jimmy.

"I wouldnae bother," said Jimmy cheerfully. "When does that bar open?"

Hamish left. He drove back to Lochdubh but instead of going to the station, he stopped at the Tommel Castle Hotel just outside the village. The hotel was owned by Colonel Halburton-Smythe, Priscilla's father, a landowner who, on Hamish's suggestion, had turned his family home into a hotel when he was in danger of going bankrupt. The hotel had prospered, first through the efforts of Priscilla and then under the efficient management of Mr. Johnson, the manager. He went through to the hotel office where Mr. Johnson was rattling the keys of a computer. Hamish pulled up a chair to the desk and sat down opposite the manager. "Help yourself to coffee, Hamish," said the manager, jerking his head in the direction of a coffee machine in the corner.

Hamish rose and helped himself to a mugful of coffee and sat down again. "That's that," said Mr. Johnson with a sigh. "I miss Priscilla. She's a dab hand at the accounts. What brings you, Hamish, or are you just chasing a free cup of coffee?"

"There's been a burglary over at The Scotsman."

"Druggies from Inverness?"

"No, the safe was robbed. The bingo prize money. Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds."

"Did they blow it?"

"No, Macbean got the safe on the cheap at an auction in Inverness. It had a wooden back."

"I mind that safe. I was at that auction myself. That safe was made by a company nobody had ever heard of. I couldn't believe that wooden back."

"So what's the gossip about Macbean?"

"Sour man with a slag of a wife and a drip of a daughter. Came here about two years ago. Somat Enterprises seem to have given him a free hand. It's run by some Scottish Greek. Got lots of sleazy restaurants and dreary hotels. As far as I can gather, as long as The Scotsman showed a profit, he didn't interfere. Macbean may have been creaming some of the profits, but he'd need to be smarter than I think he is, because Somat has a team of ferocious auditors who regularly check the books. Macbean thought up the bingo night and it's been a big success. Do you know the colonel even had the stupidity to suggest we do the same thing? People come here for the fishing and shooting and the country house life, they don't want a lot of peasants cluttering up the place."

"What about the staff?"

"Don't know. You know what it's like trying to get staff up here, Hamish. No one's anxious to check out references too closely."

"Well it's got nothing to do with me now." Hamish sipped his coffee and winced as the hot liquid washed around his bad tooth. "Jimmy Anderson's taken over. It'll be a long slog — checking out Macbean's past, checking out the staff's past, checking out Macbean's bankbook."

"It's more Blair's line to keep you off a case, Hamish."

"Aye, well, there been talk about Blair's liver being a wee bit damaged and Jimmy Anderson aye goes through a personality change when he sniffs promotion." He winced again.

"Toothache?"

"I've got an abscess. Dr. Brodie gave me a shot of antibiotic. I was going over to see Gilchrist. Oh, I forgot to say I wouldn't be going."

"I wouldn't go near that butcher, Hamish. There was a bit of a scandal. Jock Mackay over at Braikie got a tooth pulled and Gilchrist broke his jaw. Jock had impacted roots and the tooth should have been sawn in half and then taken out a bit at a time. Turned out Gilchrist hadn't even X-rayed him first. Folks told him to sue, but you know what it's like. A lot of them are brought up to think that doctors, lawyers and dentists are little gods. They never seem to think that they're just like the butcher or the baker. You get bad meat from the butcher, you find another butcher, but they'll stick with a bad doctor or a bad dentist until the end of time."

"Can I use your phone? I might go over myself tomorrow, now that I've got the excuse. What does Gilchrist look like?"

"White."

"I didn't think he was African or Indian."

"No, I mean, very white, big white face, big white hands like uncooked pork sausages, very pale eyes, thick white hair, white eyebrows, white coat like the ones the American dentists wear."

"Age?"

"Fifties, at a guess. Bit of a ladies' man, by all accounts. Use the phone by all means, but only ask for a checkup or that man will have the pliers out and all your teeth out."

Hamish dialled the dentist's number. Maggie Bane answered the phone. He had never met her any more than he had ever met the dentist although he knew her name and had heard of her. Her voice on the phone was sharp and peremptory and he imagined a middle-aged woman with a tight perm, flashing glasses and a thin, bony figure. "This is Mr. Macbeth," he said, appalled to hear his own voice sounding cringing and apologetic. "I won't be over today after all. I couldn't call you earlier because I was on a case."

"We've got enough to do here," snapped Maggie, "without having to cope with people cancelling appointments. I just wish that folk would tell the truth and say they're scared."

"I am not scared," howled Hamish. "Listen here. I haff the abscess in my tooth and the doctor says I will need to wait until the antibiotic works before seeing the dentist."

Maggie's voice was heavy with sarcasm. "Oh, and when is that likely to be?"

Hamish took a deep breath. He was suddenly determined to see this dentist with the unsavoury reputation and this horrible receptionist. "Tomorrow," he said firmly.

"There's a Miss Nessie Currie has cancelled at three. You can have her appointment."

"Thank you." Hamish slammed down the phone.

Nessie Currie and her sister, Jessie, were the village spinsters. It was their fussy, gossipy manner which damned them as spinsters in a country like Scotland where women who had escaped marriage were sometimes considered fortunate, a hangover from the days when marriage meant domestic slavery and a string of children.

He decided to go and call on Nessie.

Nessie and Jessie were working in their small patch of front garden where narrow beds of regimented plants stood to attention bordering a square of lawn. A rowan tree, heavy with scarlet berries, stood beside the gate as it did outside many Highland homes as a charm to keep the fairies, witches, and evil spirits away.

"There's that Hamish Macbeth," said Jessie. "Hamish Macbeth." She had an irritating habit of repeating everything.

Nessie straightened up and pulled off her gardening gloves, the sunlight glinting on her glasses. "We heard there was the burglary over at The Scotsman," she said. "Why aren't you over there?"

"Over there," echoed Jessie, pulling a weed.

"I'm working on it. Why did you cancel your dentist's appointment, Nessie?"

"It is not the criminal offence."

"Criminal offence," echoed the Greek chorus from the flower bed.

"Chust curiosity," said Hamish testily, his Highland accent becoming more pronounced as it always did when he was irritated or upset.

"I don't see it's any business of yours, but the fact is, Mr. Gilchrist has a reputation of being a philanderer and I was going to have the gas, but goodness knows, he might interfere with my person."

"Interfere with my person," said Jessie, sotto voce.

Hamish looked at Nessie's elderly and flat-chested body and reflected that this Gilchrist must indeed have one hell of a reputation.

He touched his cap and walked off. The sun was slanting over the loch and soon the early northern night would begin. He felt suddenly lonely and wished he could speak to Priscilla and immediately after that thought had a sudden sharp longing for a cigarette although he had given up smoking some years before.

"You're looking pretty down in the mouth." The doctor's wife, Angela, stopped in front of him. "Tooth still hurting?"

"No, it's fine at the moment. I was wishing Priscilla was back. We aye talked things over. Then the damnedest thing. I wanted a cigarette."

Angela smiled, her thin face lighting up. "Why is it everything you let go of, Hamish, ends up with your claw marks on it?"

"I haff let go," said Hamish crossly. "I wass chust thinking ..."

"And I'm thinking you could do with a cup of tea and some scones. Come along, I'm on my way home."

As Hamish walked beside her, he suddenly remembered that Angela's home-baked scones were always as hard as bricks and his diseased tooth gave an anticipatory twinge.

The scones that Angela produced and put on the kitchen table looked light and buttery. "A present from Mrs. Wellington," she said.

Hamish brightened. Mrs. Wellington, the minister's wife, was a good cook.

He had two scones and butter and two cups of tea. But disaster struck when Angela produced a pot of blackberry jam and urged him to try another. Hamish buttered another scone, covered it liberally in jam, and sank his teeth into it. A red-hot pain seemed to shoot up right through the top of his head. He let out a yelp.

"I say, that tooth is hurting," said Angela. "Probably the jam. There's a lot of acid in blackberries. Here." She rummaged in a kitchen drawer and drew out a handful of new toothbrushes and handed him one. "Go to the bathroom and clean your teeth and rinse out your mouth well. Then come back and I'll give you a couple of aspirin."

Hamish grabbed the toothbrush and went into the long narrow bathroom. Two cats slept in the bath and another was curled up on top of the toilet seat. He ripped the wrappings off the toothbrush, brushed his teeth, found a mouthwash in the cabinet and rinsed out his mouth. By the time he returned to the kitchen, the pain was down to a dull ache. He gratefully swallowed two aspirin.

"I thought you would be over at The Scotsman Hotel," said Angela.

The cats had followed Hamish from the bathroom. One began to affectionately sharpen its claws on his trouser leg and he resisted an impulse to knock it across the kitchen. Angela was very fond of her cats and Hamish was fond of Angela.

"Jimmy Anderson is on the case so I'm off it. Blair's liver is playing up so Jimmy has dreams of glory."

Angela cradled her cup of tea between her thin fingers. "I'm surprised you haven't been called to that hotel before."

"Why?"

"I suppose I shouldn't be telling you this, but I heard a rumour that Macbean beats his wife."

"Neffer!"

"I think he does. She had bruised cheeks two months ago as if he'd given her a couple of backhanders."

Hamish leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head. "Now there's a thing. A battered wife and two hundred and fifty thousand pounds missing from the safe. She could get a long way away from him on that."

"Battered wives don't usually have the guts to do anything to escape. Not unless there's another man."

Hamish thought of the acidulous Mrs. Macbean with her thin, lipsticked mouth and hair in pink rollers and sighed. "No, I don't think it can be anything to do with her. Thanks for the tea and everything, Angela. I'd best get back to the station."

Jimmy Anderson was waiting for him. "Typed up your notes yet on that burglary?"

"You said you didn't want them."

"Well, I would like them now." Jimmy followed Hamish into the police station and through to the police office. "Got any whisky?"

Seeing that Jimmy was restored to something like his normal self, Hamish said, "Aye, there's a bottle in the bottom drawer. I'll get you a glass."

"What about yourself?"

"Not me," said Hamish with a shudder. "I have the tooth-ache."

"Get them all pulled out, Hamish. That's what I did. I got a rare pair of dentures. I even got the dentist to stain them a bit wi' nicotine so they look like the real thing."

He bared an evil-looking set of false teeth.

Hamish got a glass and poured Jimmy a generous measure of whisky.

"So what's happening with the burglary?"

Jimmy looked sour. "Nothing. We'll need to wait for the reports on Macbean and the staff to see if any of them has a criminal background."

"I hear Macbean beats his wife."

"This is the Highlands, man. What else do they do on the long winter nights?"

"Just thought I'd tell you, which is very generous of me, considering you sent me away wi' a flea in my ear. You had a touch of Blairitis."

"You'd best keep your ear to the ground, Hamish, or we'll have that pillock, Blair, poking his nose in."

"I'll see what I can do."

"Maybe you'd best go back there tomorrow."


* * *


And Hamish would have definitely gone straight to The Scotsman Hotel in the morning but for one thing. After he had typed out his notes for Jimmy, he found the whole side of his face was burning and throbbing with pain. He decided to go straight to Gilchrist and ask him to pull the tooth. He could make time between appointments. There was just so much pain a man could bear.

He got into the police Land Rover and set out on the narrow one-track road which led to Braikie. The weather was milder, which meant a thin drizzle was misting the windscreen and the cloud was low on the flanks of the Sutherland mountains.

Braikie was one of those small Scottish towns where Calvinism seems to seep out of the very walls of the dark grey houses. There was one main street with a hotel at one end and a grim-looking church at the other. Small shops selling limp dresses and food of the frozen fish fingers variety were dotted here and there. The police station had been closed down, Braikie having some time ago been considered near enough for Hamish Macbeth to patrol. But he hardly ever went there and had no reason to. Braikie might be a dismal place, but he could not remember a crime ever being committed there.

He asked a local where the dentist's surgery was and was told it was next to the church. It was situated above a dress shop where dowdy frocks at outrageous prices were displayed in the window, which was covered in yellow cellophane to protect the precious goods from sunlight, even though the dreary day was becoming blacker by the minute. The entrance to the dentist's surgery was a stone staircase by the side of the shop. He mounted slowly, holding his jaw although the pain had suddenly ceased in that mysterious way that toothache has of disappearing the minute you are heading for the dentist's chair.

He stopped on the landing and cocked his head to one side. It was quiet. No sound seemed to filter from inside.

A frosted-glass door with Gilchrist's name on it faced him. It was the only door on the landing.

With a little sigh, he pushed it open. The waiting room was empty, the receptionist's desk was empty. The silence was absolute. A tank of fish ornamented one corner, but the fish were dead and floating belly up. A table with very old copies of Scottish Field was in the centre of the room. Hard upright chairs lined the walls.

His tooth gave another sharp wrench of pain, and stifling a moan, he pushed open the surgery door.

A man was sitting in the dentist's chair, his back to Hamish. "Hullo," said Hamish tentatively. "Where's the dentist?"

Silence.

He strode around the front of the chair.

From the white hair and white coat, he realised he was looking at Mr. Gilchrist.

But his face was not white. It was horribly discoloured and distorted.

Hamish felt for a pulse at the wrist and then at the neck.

Mr. Gilchrist was dead.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 12 of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 1, 2014

    Another book in the series of Hamish Macbeth mysteries

    Hamish Macbeth is a local constable in the Scottish Highlands who has a miserable toothache. He doesn't want to go to his regular dentist because he's so far away so he decides to go to a nearby dentist who has a bad reputation, but he needs help so he goes to him and finds out that he has recently been murdered.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2008

    Love M.C. Beaton

    I loved this book and I love the Author, If you liked this book, I recommend her other series Agatha Raisin

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2002

    Not my cup of tea!

    I am a first time reader of this author and it's doubtful I will read another of her works. The story was interesting enough but the characters were all rather blah. The main character seemed to be rather depressed and insecure in his personal life. None of the characters are likable and I didn't like the writing of their cockney accent. Sometimes I didn't understand what was being said. I gave it 3 stars only because the initial story was interesting. An ok read if your really bored.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2001

    Very Good

    I'm not normally much of a mystery reader, but I thought I'd give these a try on ebook. I was very pleased. Hamish Macbeth, the main characer, is very endearing. It's a lighter read and very enjoyable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2000

    This is a real 'driller'!

    Who could have killed Dr. Gilchrist? And at this time? Hamish Macbeth has a severe toothache and finally convinces himself to go to the dentist! Alas, instead of finding the good doctor ready and waiting, Macbeth finds him ready and dead! Someone has murdered him--and there¿s not shortage of suspects! Dr. Gilchrist, besides being a compliant dentist, also has a reputation for being a womanizer and disgruntled husbands are a-plenty! In ¿Death of a Dentist,¿ M. C. Beaton continues in her predictable Macbeth series, set in the Scottish Highlands village of Lochdubh. Macbeth is the laid-back local constable who has a reputation himself for solving murders (this is the 13th in the series). In solving this case, Macbeth finds that it is not simple open-and-shut case, as he discovers that there is a convoluted, complicated history here that has to be sorted out first. And with his usual thorough and level-headed approach, Macbeth puts another star in his ¿crowns¿!

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    Posted February 27, 2010

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 12 of 9 Customer Reviews

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