Death of a Dustman (Hamish Macbeth Series #16)
  • Alternative view 1 of Death of a Dustman (Hamish Macbeth Series #16)
  • Alternative view 2 of Death of a Dustman (Hamish Macbeth Series #16)

Death of a Dustman (Hamish Macbeth Series #16)

4.5 14
by M. C. Beaton
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Lochdubh's dustman, Fergus Macleod, a sour little man given to domestic violence and drinking, gets by with a one-day work week collecting the village's trash. But when Mrs. Freda Fleming, wrath of the Strathbane Council, decides to make an environmental example out of Lochdubh, Fergus is promoted (at double his usual salary) to man the new and elaborate recycling

Overview

Lochdubh's dustman, Fergus Macleod, a sour little man given to domestic violence and drinking, gets by with a one-day work week collecting the village's trash. But when Mrs. Freda Fleming, wrath of the Strathbane Council, decides to make an environmental example out of Lochdubh, Fergus is promoted (at double his usual salary) to man the new and elaborate recycling center. Now a bullying tyrant with a neat uniform and a new truck, he issues harsh fines and enforces petty rules-until he is found dead, stuffed into a recycling bin. Enter Hamish Macbeth, who now not only has to solve the murder, but juggle Freda's edicts, his lazy new constable, and labor trouble washing over the new oceanfront hotel.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
With his neat new uniform, big new truck and important new job as head of Lochdubh's state-of-the-art recycling center, dustman Fergus Macleod is a force to be reckoned with-issuing harsh fines and enforcing petty rules, much to the dismay of the businesspeople in town. But when the unpopular trash collector is found dead, stuffed in his own recycling bin, Scottish detective Hamish Macbeth is called to the scene to make a clean sweep of the murder and dig up a dirty killer with ties to Lochdubh's new oceanfront hotel.
Toby Bromberg
Although there are no major surprises in Death of a Dustman, the story is a charming one and a visit to little Lochdubh is as refreshing as a mountain spring. Readers who enjoy the charms of the cozy sub-genre will find this series their “cup of tea.” Romantic Times
Marilyn Stasio
An enchanting series....M.C. Beaton has a foolproof plot for the village mystery.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
That the prolific Beaton seems to be writing for television in her 16th Hamish Macbeth mystery (after Death of an Addict) may be no surprise, given that the same U.K. company that brought Inspector Morse to the small screen has filmed some novels in this series. After all, what's superficial or formulaic on the page can look just fine on TV. When, in an effort to gain publicity for the local community and herself, bullying Strathbane Council member Freda Fleming gets drunken Lochdubh dustman Fergus Macleod promoted to "environmental officer," Fergus can't believe his luck. Alas, he doesn't have much time to strut his new military-style uniform ("He looked for all the world like the wizened dictator of some totalitarian regime"), because someone bashes the back of his head in and dumps his body in a rubbish bin. Enter policeman Hamish Macbeth, who soon discovers that Fergus had a second career as a blackmailer. As he pursues various suspects and red herrings, Hamish flirts with an old girlfriend, muses on the horrors of wife-beating, and generally carries on in a way that presumes readers are old friends who'll forgive him his every indulgence. A wildly improbable feat of Scottish hammer-throwing brings down the villain, while a second murder that's not what it seems provides some last-minute suspense. If the U.K. television series ever comes to the U.S., that would give sales a big boost. Mystery Guild Featured Alternate. (Mar. 6) FYI: Beaton is the pseudonym of Marion Chesney, known for her Regency romances as well as her Agatha Raisin series. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
An ambitious new member of the Strathbane Council with strong environmentalist convictions hopes to gain national attention by starting a recycling center in the village of Lochdubh. The local garbage collector, already prone to violence, subsequently becomes a petty tyrant--until someone conveniently kills him. Series "hero" Hamish Macbeth investigates in his 17th mystery. A clever plot wrought with wry humor. [A Mystery Guild featured alternate.] Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-When Mrs. Freda Fleming, tyrannical member of the Strathbane Council, appoints the dustman (trash collector) of Lochdubh to be the "environmental officer," Fergus Macleod becomes a bigger bully than he was before. He also specializes in blackmail as he uses the bits of information he finds in the rubbish against the local residents. No one is surprised when his body turns up in a recycling bin. That's when policeman Hamish Macbeth steps in to investigate, but he has a difficult time trying to get the locals to talk. And then, another murder complicates the entire process. Beaton once again entertains fans of the series with delightful escapades of the Scottish populace and a good mystery. She uses Hamish not only as the main character, but also as a foundation for learning about the culture, activities, and other people in the village. Clarry Graham, Macbeth's constable who specializes in cooking, lends additional humor to the story line. Another entertaining offering from this successful author.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780446609319
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
01/28/2002
Series:
Hamish Macbeth Series, #16
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
143,199
Product dimensions:
4.25(w) x 6.87(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Love in a hut, with water and a crust, Is-Love, forgive us!-cinders, ashes, dust.

-John Keats

They are still called dustmen in Britain. Not garbage collectors or sanitation engineers. Just dustmen, as they were called in the days of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion and Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend.

Lochdubh's dustman, Fergus Macleod, lived in a small run-down cottage at the back of the village with his wife, Martha, and four children. He was a sour little man, given to drunken binges, but as he timed his binges to fall between collection days, nobody paid him much attention. It was rumoured he had once been an accountant before he took to the drink. No one in the quiet Highland village in the county of Sutherland at the very north of Scotland could ever have imagined he was a sleeping monster, and one that was shortly about to wake up.

Mrs. Freda Fleming had recently bullied her way onto Strathbane Council to become Officer for the Environment. This had been a position created for her to shut her up and keep her out of other council business. She was the only woman on the council. Her position in the chauvinist Highlands was due to the fact that the ambitious widow had seduced the provost-the Scottish equivalent of mayor-after a Burns Supper during which the normally rabbity little provost, Mr. Jamie Ferguson, had drunk too much whisky.

Mrs. Fleming nursed a private dream and that was to see herself on television. Her mirror showed a reflection of a well-upholstered woman of middle years with gold-tinted hair and a pugnacious face. Mrs. Fleming saw in her glass someone several inches slimmer and with dazzling charisma. Her husband had died three years previously. He had been a prominent businessman in the community, running an electronics factory in Strathbane. His death from a heart attack had left Mrs. Fleming a very wealthy widow, with burning ambition and time on her hands. At first she had accepted the post of Officer for the Environment with bad grace but had recently woken to the fact that Green was in-efinitely in.

She figured if she could think up some grand scheme to improve the environment, the cameras would roll. She firmly believed she was born to be a television star. Strathbane was much in need of improvement. It was a blot on the Highlands, a sprawling town full of high rises, crime, unemployed and general filth. But it was too huge a task and not at all photogenic. She aimed for national television, and national television would go for something photogenic and typically Highland. Then she remembered Lochdubh, which she had visited once on a sunny day. She would "green" Lochdubh.

One hot summer's morning, she arrived in Lochdubh. The first thing she saw was smelly bags of rubbish lined up outside the church hall. This would not do. She swung round and glared along the waterfront. Her eye fell on the blue lamp of a police station, partly obscured by the rambling roses which tumbled over the station door.

She strode towards it and looked over the hedge. Hamish Macbeth, recently promoted to police sergeant, was playing in the garden with his dog, Lugs.

"Ahem!" said Mrs. Fleming severely. "Where is the constable?"

Hamish was not in uniform. He was wearing an old checked shirt and baggy cords. The sun shone down on his flaming red hair and pleasant face.

He smiled at her. "I am Sergeant Macbeth. Can I help you?"

"What has happened to Lochdubb?" she demanded.

"Lochdubh," corrected Hamish gently. "It's pronounced Lochdoo."

"Whatever." Mrs. Fleming did not like to be corrected.

"Why is all that smelly garbage outside the church hall?"

"We had a fête to raise money for charity," said Hamish.

"Who are you?"

"I am Mrs. Freda Fleming, Officer for the Environment in Strathbane."

"Well, Mrs. Fleming, like I was saying, it's because of the fête, all that rubbish."

"So why hasn't it been collected?"

"Fergus Macleod, that's the dustman, doesn't collect anything outside collection day. That's not for a couple of days' time."

"We'll see about that. Where does he live?"

"If you go to Patel's, the general store, and go up the lane at the side, you'll find four cottages along the road at the back. It's the last one."

"And why aren't you in uniform?"

"Day off," said Hamish, hoping she wouldn't check up.

"Very well. You will be seeing more of me. I plan to green Lochdubh." With that, she strode off along the waterfront, leaving Hamish scratching his fiery hair in bewilderment. What on earth could she have meant? Perhaps trees or maybe gardens?

But he had enough problems to fill his brain without worrying about Mrs. Fleming's plans. Behind him and, he hoped, manning the police office was his new constable, Clarry Graham. Clarry was a lazy slob. He had never progressed from the ranks. He rarely washed and slopped around in a shiny old uniform.

Then there was the problem of the new hotel. The Lochdubh Hotel at the harbour had stood vacant for some years. It had recently been bought by a Greek entrepreneur, George Ionides. This meant work for the villagers and Hamish was glad of that, but on the other hand he was aware that a new hotel would take custom away from the Tommel Castle Hotel, run by Colonel Halburton-Smythe, whose glamorous daughter, Priscilla, had once been the love of his life.

He went into the police station followed by Lugs. Lugs is the Scottish for "ears," and he had called the dog that because of its large ears. In the police station, the fat figure of Clarry was snoring gently behind the desk.

I should wake him up, thought Hamish, but what for? It's as quiet as the grave these days. Clarry had strands of grey hair plastered across his pink scalp and a large grey moustache which rose and fell with every somnolent breath. He had a round pink face, like that of a prematurely aged baby. His chubby hands were folded across his stomach. The only thing in his favour was that he was a good cook and no one could call him mean. Most of his salary went on food-food which he was delighted to cook for Hamish as well as himself.

Oh, well, thought Hamish, closing the office door gently. I could have got someone worse.

Fergus was in the middle of one of his binges, and had he been at home Mrs. Fleming would have seen to it that he lost his job. But Fergus was lying up in the heather on the moors, sleeping off his latest binge, so it was his wife, Martha, who answered the door. Martha had once been a pretty girl, but marriage, four children and multiple beatings had left her looking tired and faded. Her once thick black hair was streaked with grey and her eyes held a haunted look.

Mrs. Fleming questioned her closely about her husband and fear prompted Martha to protect the horrible Fergus, for what would they live on if he lost his job? She said he was a hard worker, and the reason he collected the garbage only once a week was because he had one of those old fashioned trucks where everything had to be manually lifted into it by hand. Mrs. Fleming was pleased by Martha's timid, deferential air. She gave Martha her card and said that Fergus was to report to the council offices at eleven the following morning. "We must see about getting him a new truck," she said graciously. "I have plans for Lochdubh."

After she had gone, Martha told her eldest, Johnny, to take care of the younger ones, and she then set out to look for her husband. By evening, she had almost given up and was leaning wearily over the hump-backed bridge over the River Anstey.

She found herself hoping that he was dead. That would be different from him losing his job. She could get her widow's pension, and when the third child, Sean, was of school age, she could maybe work a shift at the new hotel if she could get someone to look after the baby. Mrs. Wellington, the minister's wife, had challenged her with the unsym-pathetic, "You must have known he was a drunk when you married him," but she had not. Certainly he seemed to like his dram like a lot of Highlanders. She had met him at a wedding in Inverness. He had said he was an accountant and working over at Dingwall. He had courted her assiduously. It was only after they were married and he had moved into the cottage she had inherited from her parents that it transpired he had no job and was a chronic drunk. It also transpired he really had been an accountant, but he had seemed to take a savage delight in becoming the village dustman. Then she sensed, rather than saw, his approach.

She swung round, her back to the parapet of the bridge. He came shambling towards her with that half-apologetic leer on his face that he always had when he had sobered up between binges.

"Looking for me?"

"Aye, a woman from the council in Strathbane called. Wants to see you in Strathbane on the morrow."

"Whit about?"

"Didnae say. She left her card."

"You should've asked." Fergus had become wizened with drink, although only in his in mid-forties. He had a large nose and watery eyes and a small prissy mouth. He had rounded shoulders and long arms, as if all the lifting of dustbins had elongated them. It was hard for Martha to think that she had loved him once.

"I'd better go and see her," grumbled Fergus.

Martha shivered although the evening was balmy and warm. She had a feeling the bad times were coming. Then she chided herself for her fancies. How could the bad times come when they were already here?

Clarry slid a plate of steaming bouillabaisse in front of Hamish Macbeth. "Try that, sir," he ordered. "Nobody can make the bouillabaisse like Clarry."

"Aye, you're a grand cook, Clarry," said Hamish, thinking he would settle for fish fingers and frozen chips if only Clarry would turn out to be a good policeman instead. But the fish stew was delicious. "Did you ever think of going into the restaurant business?" asked Hamish. "A genius like you shouldnae be wasting your talents in the police force. The Tommel Castle Hotel could do with a good chef." "It's not the same," said Clarry. "You go to them grand hotels and they would want ye to cut corners, skimp on the ingredients to save money." He ate happily.

"There was a woman here from the council in Strathbane. Wanted to see Fergus."

"The drunk?"

"Himself. Maybe you could do something for me, Clarry. I've tried, God knows. I'm pretty sure he beats that wife o' his. Go along there tomorrow and see if you can get her on her own, and tell her she doesn't need to put up with it."

"Domestics were never my scene," said Clarry, tearing off a hunk of bread and wiping the last of the soup from the bottom of his plate.

"You're a policeman," said Hamish sharply. "We don't leave wives to be battered by their husbands anymore."

"I'll gie it a try," said Clarry amiably. "Now when you've finished that, I've got a nice apple pie hot in the oven." Fergus drove over to Strathbane the following morning in the garbage truck. He was dressed in his only suit, a dark blue one, carefully brushed and cleaned by his wife. His sparse hair was brushed and oiled over his freckled pate. He could feel anger rising up in him against the villagers of Lochdubh. One of them must have reported him for something. He would try to find out who it was and get even.

And so he drove on, one sour little cell of blackness hurtling through the glory of the summer Highlands, where the buzzards soared free above and the mountains and moors lay gentle in the mellow sun.

In Strathbane, he parked outside the square, concrete Stalinist block that was Strathbane Council offices. He gave his name at the reception desk and asked for Mrs. Fleming.

A secretary arrived to lead him up the stairs to the first floor. Mrs. Fleming had commandeered one of the best offices. Fergus was ushered in. His heart sank when he saw Mrs. Fleming. Like most bullies, he was intimidated by other bullies, and in Mrs. Fleming's stance and hard eyes and by the very way those eyes were assessing him, he recognised a bully.

"Sit down, Mr. Macleod," said Mrs. Fleming. "We are to discuss the greening of Lochdubh."

Fergus's now sober brain worked rapidly. This woman was one of those Greens. Very well. He would play up to her.

"I'm aye keen of doing anything I can to protect the environment, Mrs. Fleming."

"Splendid. Why then, however, did you not collect the garbage piled up outside the church hall?"

"If you take a look down from your window, missus, you'll see my truck. It's one o' thae old ones with the sliding doors at the side."

Mrs. Fleming walked to the window, and he joined her. "Now, I hae to lift all the rubbish into that myself. No help. I'm getting treatment for my back. I can manage fine if I keep to the collection day, which is Wednesday."

Mrs. Fleming scowled down at the old truck. Not photogenic.

She strode back to her desk. "Sit down, Mr. Macleod. That truck will not do. I plan to make an example of Lochdubh." From beside her desk she lifted up a black plastic box. "Boxes like these will be given to each householder. Waste paper, bottles and cans will be put into these boxes and not in with the general garbage. Wheelie bins will be supplied."

Fergus thought of those huge plastic bins on wheels. "I couldnae lift those," he protested.

"You won't need to," said Mrs. Fleming triumphantly.

"Your new crusher truck will have a mechanism for lifting the bins in. We will also put large containers on the water-front at Lochdubh. One will be for wastepaper, the other for cans and the third for bottles."

"But if they've tae put the cans and bottles and stuff in the black boxes, why will they need the extra bins?"

"So that they have no excuses for not separating their garbage if they've got extra stuff. The hotels and boarding houses will need to use the larger bins." She leaned forward.

"We are going to put Lochdubh on the map, Mr. Macleod. How much do you earn?"

Fergus told her. "We will double that. You are now promoted to Lochdubh's own environment officer. What do you wear while working?"

"Overalls and old clothes," said Fergus.

"No, that won't do for the television cameras."

"Television cameras?" echoed Fergus.

"Yes, when you have succeeded in making Lochdubh a model village, I will come with the provost and various dignitaries. Press and television will be there. You must have an appropriate uniform." She looked at her watch. "Now, if you will be so good, I would like you to wait here. I have a meeting with the other members of the council."

Clarry, with his broad pink face sweating under his peaked cap, ambled up to Fergus's cottage. He knew Fergus had four children because Hamish had told him, and because it was the school holidays, he expected to see them playing around. There was a baby in a battered pram outside the door. He waggled his fingers at the baby, who stared solemnly back. Clarry knocked at the door.

Martha answered it and stepped back with a little cry of alarm when she saw his uniform. "Just a friendly call," said Clarry. "Mind if I come in?"

"I'm just getting the children their lunch."

The children-Johnny, ten years old, Callum, eight, and Sean, four-were sitting round a table. They looked at him as solemnly as the baby had done.

"What are they having for lunch?" asked Clarry, his mind always on food.

"Baked beans on toast."

Martha looked so tired and white and the children so unnaturally quiet that Clarry's heart was touched. "You all need feeding up," he said. "You just wait here. I'll do the lunch for you."

"But that's not necessary..." began Martha, but with a cheery wave, Clarry was moving off with the lightness and speed which makes some fat men good dancers.

He returned after half an hour carrying two heavy shopping bags. "Now if you'll just show me the kitchen." Martha led him into a small narrow kitchen. "Off you go and watch telly," said Clarry. "Food on the table in a minute."

Martha switched on the television and the children joined her on the sofa. Clarry beat sirloin steaks paper thin and tossed them in oil and garlic. He heated garlic bread in the oven. He tossed salad in a bowl. He chopped potatoes and fried a mountain of chips.

Soon they were all gathered around the table. "There's Coca-Cola for you lot," said Clarry, beaming at the children, "and Mum and I will have a glass o' wine."

The children gazed at this large, expansive, friendly man. Johnny thought he looked like Santa Claus. They ate busily.

"I'm afraid we're costing you a lot of money," said Martha.

"I put it on my boss's account," said Clarry.

Under the influence of the wine and good food, Martha showed ghostlike signs of her earlier prettiness. But all the time, she was dreading her husband's return. Clarry talked about his days of policing in Strathbane while the children listened and Martha began to relax. Her husband could hardly make a scene with a policeman in the house. After lunch, the children settled down in front of the television set again. "No, no, that won't be doing at all on such a fine day," said Clarry. "Mum and I'll do the dishes and then it's outside with the lot of you."

"Why did you come?" asked Martha, as Clarry washed and she dried.

"Just to say that if your man is beating you, you should report it," said Clarry.

"He's not beating me," said Martha. "Besides, say he was, I couldn't support the children. They'd be taken away from me."

Clarry looked down at her fragile figure. "That would not happen for I would not let it happen, lassie. That's the lot. Now let's see if we can give those kids of yours some exercise."

Clarry improvised a game of rounders with a broom handle and an old tennis ball. The children ran about screaming with laughter. Martha felt tears welling up in her eyes. When had she last heard her children laugh?

"So that's settled then," said Mrs. Fleming triumphantly as the members of the council looked back at her, feeling as if they had all been beaten and mugged. In vain had they protested at the cost of the proposed scheme. Mrs. Fleming had bulldozed her way through all their objections. She returned to her office where Fergus was waiting patiently. She took a tape measure out of her drawer. "Now I'll just measure you for that uniform."

Fergus felt bewildered. He had double the salary, and not only that, he had a chance to bully the villagers. Not one can or bottle or newspaper should make their appearance in the general rubbish. He began to feel elated. The good times were coming. The thought of a drink to celebrate flickered through his brain, but he dismissed it. As Mrs. Fleming measured and made notes, he felt increasingly buoyed up by his new status.

He, Fergus Macleod, was now an environment officer.

Martha, from the position of her cottage, could see part of the winding road that led into Lochdubh. She also knew the sound of the garbage truck's engine.

"Dad's coming!" she shouted.

Clarry thought that it was as if the game of rounders had turned into a game of statues. The children froze in mid-action. The sound of the truck roared nearer. Then they crept into the house. "You'd better go," said Martha to Clarry.

"Remember, lassie," said Clarry, "I'm just down the road. You don't need to put up with it."

She nodded, her eyes wide and frightened, willing him to go.

Clarry ambled off and turned the corner to the waterfront just as Fergus's truck roared past.

Fergus parked the truck. Martha went out to meet him. Her husband's first words made her heart sink. "We're going to celebrate tonight."

Celebration usually only meant one thing. But Fergus was more eager for his new job than for any drink. He carried a box of groceries into the kitchen. There was Coke and crisps and chocolates for the children. There was an odd assortment of groceries-venison pâté, various exotic cheeses, parma ham, bottled cherries and cans of fruit. Martha thought wistfully of Clarry's offering of steak.

"What are we celebrating?" she asked timidly.

"I am Lochdubh's new environment officer," said Fergus.

He proudly told her of his increased salary, of the new truck, of the greening of Lochdubh.

For the Macleod family, it was a strangely relaxed evening. Martha prayed that the children would not mention Clarry's visit, and, to her relief, they did not. They had become so wary of their father's rages that they had learned to keep quiet on all subjects at all times.

For the next few weeks it seemed as if success was a balm to Fergus's normally angry soul. He even chatted to people in the village. Clarry felt obscurely disappointed. He had been nourishing private dreams of being a sort of knight errant who would rescue Martha from a disastrous marriage. Martha had never known Fergus to go so long without a drink before. She was still frightened of him, like someone living perpetually in the shadow of an active volcano, but was grateful for the respite.

Then one morning, flyers were delivered to each household in Lochdubh announcing a meeting to be held in the church hall to discuss improvements to Lochdubh.

Hamish, along with nearly everyone else, went along.

Mrs. Fleming was on the platform. She was wearing a black evening jacket, glittering with black sequins, over a white silk blouse. Her long black skirt was slit up one side to reveal one stocky, muscular leg in a support stocking. She announced the Great Greening of Lochdubh. Villagers listened, bewildered, as they learned that they would need to start separating the garbage into various containers. New bottle banks and paper banks would be placed on the waterfront on the following day.

"What's a bottle bank?" whispered Archie Maclean, a fisherman.

"It's one o' thae big bell-shaped metal bins, like they have outside some of the supermarkets in Strathbane. You put your bottles in there."

"Oh, is that what they're for," said Archie. "Oh, michty me! Waud you look at that!"

Mrs. Fleming had brought Fergus onto the platform. The other members of the council had suggested that a uniform of green overalls would be enough, but Mrs. Fleming had given the job of designing the uniform to her nephew, Peter, a willowy young man with ambitions to be a dress designer.

The audience stared in amazement as Fergus walked proudly onto the platform. His uniform was pseudo-military, bright green and with epaulettes and brass buttons. On his head he wore a peaked cap so high on the crown and so shiny on the peak that a Russian officer would kill for it. He looked for all the world like the wizened dictator of some totalitarian regime.

Someone giggled, then someone laughed out loud, and then the whole hall was in an uproar. Fergus stood there, his long arms hanging at his sides, his face red, as the gales of laughter beat upon his ears. He hated them. He hated them all.

He would get even.

The following day Hamish strolled down to the harbour to watch the work on the new hotel. Jobs were scarce in the Highlands, and he was pleased to see so many of the locals at work.

"Hamish?"

He swung round. Priscilla Halburton-Smythe stood there. He felt for a moment that old tug at his heart as he watched the clear oval of her face and the shining bell of her hair. But then he said mildly, "Come to watch the rivals at work, Priscilla?"

"Something like that. It worries me, Hamish. We've been doing so well. They're going to take custom away from us."

"They haven't any fishing rights," said Hamish easily.

"That's what most of your guests come for-the fishing. And you don't take coach parties."

"Not yet. We may have to change our ways to compete."

"I haven't seen a sign of the new owner yet," remarked Hamish.

"I believe he's got hotels all over Europe."

"Any of your staff showing signs of deserting?"

"Not yet. But oh, Hamish, what if he offers much higher wages? We'll really be in trouble."

"Let's see what happens," said Hamish lazily. "I find if you sit tight and don't do anything, things have a way of resolving themselves."

"How's your new copper getting on?"

Hamish sighed. "I thought the last one, Willie Lamont, was a pain with his constant cleaning and scrubbing and not paying any attention to his work. One new cleaner for sale and he was off and running. Now I've got Clarry.

That's the trouble wi' living in Lochdubh, Priscilla. At Strathbane, they say to themselves, now which one can we really do without, and so I get Clarry. Oh, he's good-natured enough. And he's a grand cook, but he smells a bit and he iss damn lazy." Hamish's accent always became more sibilant when he was upset. "If he doesn't take a bath soon, I'm going to tip him into the loch."

Priscilla laughed. "That bad?"

"That bad."

"And what's all this greening business?"

"It's that bossy woman. You weren't at the church hall?"

"No."

"She is from the council, and she wants us to put all our rubbish into separate containers. There come the big bins." Priscilla looked along the waterfront. A crane was lifting the first of the huge bell-shaped objects into place. "We don't like change," she said. "They'll rebel. They won't put a single bottle or newspaper in any of those bins."

"Ah, but you haven't see the green dustman yet. There he is!"

Fergus, resplendent in his new uniform, had appeared.

He was standing with his hands behind his back, rocking on his heels, his face shadowed by his huge peaked cap.

"Heavens," said Priscilla faintly. "All he needs to complete that ensemble is a riding crop or a swagger stick."

"I think that uniform means trouble," said Hamish.

"Have you noticed that traffic wardens and people like that turn into fascist beasts the moment they get a uniform on?"

"A dustman can't do much."

"He can do a lot in the way of petty bullying. The Currie sisters didn't give Fergus a Christmas box, and he didn't collect their rubbish until they complained to the council."

"Well, there you are. Any bullying, they'll all complain to the council, and then it'll stop."

"If that Fleming woman will listen to anyone."

"What's her game? Is she a dedicated environmentalist? It said on the flyer that she was in charge of the council's environment department."

"I think, talking of bullies, that she likes to find ways of spending the taxpayers' money to order people around. In fact, here she comes."

Mrs. Fleming drove along the waterfront while they watched. She got out of the car. Fergus strutted up to her. Priscilla exploded into giggles. "Would you believe it, Hamish? Fergus saluted her."

Hamish laughed as well. The summer days and lack of crime on his beat were making him lazier than ever and dulling his usual intuition. He did not guess that Fergus's silly salute would make Mrs. Fleming not hear one word against him, and so set in train a chain of events which would lead to horror.

Copyright (c) 2001 By Marion Chesney

Meet the Author

M. C. Beaton has won international acclaim for her New York Times bestselling Hamish Macbeth mysteries. The BBC has aired 24 episodes based on the series. Beaton is also the author of the bestselling Agatha Raisin series, which will air as an eight-episode dramatic series on Sky1, starring Ashley Jensen. She lives in the Cotswolds with her husband. For more information, you can visit MCBeaton.com.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Death of a Dustman (Hamish Macbeth Series #17) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The red-haired Scots detective is back - this time the mystery in the tiny Highlands town of Lochdubh revolves around a dustman (aka 'sanitation worker' in the U.S.) who has been murdered - most likely by someone he was blackmailing. Or so thinks Hamish Macbeth, the oft-misunderstood officer of the law. The usual cast of characters from Ms. Beaton's popular series is here: his nemesis from the neighboring police force, the parroting spinster twins, a beautiful and inaccessible fiance, the domineering vicar's wife, and the whole gossiping village. It is all in good fun, told with gentle humor, and a fine mystery into the bargain.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Indeed, 'predictable' is the word (or words!) for any of the Hamish Macbeth series by M.C. Beaton, and 'Death of a Dustman' is no exception. Ms Beaton has, of course, worked out a very successful 'formula' for her Macbeth books, but her fans don't really care! What's fun is reading them! Macbeth is the local policeman in the Scottish Highlands village of Lochdubh, and, if nothing else, Beaton's characters (primarily Hamish) and the local color (of the setting) is enough to get one going! In 'Death of a Dustman,' Beaton's inimitable policeman must find the killer of one Fergus Macleod, local villager only recently appointed as the town's new dustman, in charge of a renewed campaign to keep the area environmentally friendly. Macleod is a real pain, and, thus, when he is found dead, no one really cares! Besides turning into a real tyrant--and impossible to deal with--with his silly and petty (but legal) fines of his townsfolk--he is a wife-abuser and into some blackmail as well. And when his body's found, it's poetic justice, indeed: he was left in a recycling bin. (If that's not a metaphor, what is!) But, the law's the law and a murder's a murder. And Hamish must do his duty--regardless of his personal feelings for Macleod! As usual, Beaton provides us with suspects aplenty, and Macbeth's resilience pays off, one more time! Beaton's books are delightful to read!
harstan More than 1 year ago
In America, they are called sanitation engineers, but in England they are dubiously labeled as dustmen. In the Highland village of Lochdubh, dustman Fergus Macleod is a slimy toad who drinks himself into unconsciousness and beats his wife when he is awake. His demeanor changes when he is appointed as the new Environmental Officer of the village with a doubling of his salary.

His new position goes to Fergus¿ head as his petty tyranny encompasses the entire hamlet. The tension is so taut no one is surprised to find the murdered body of Fergus amidst the garbage cans. Local police officer Hamish MacBeth leads the investigation, but the townsfolk close ranks to protect a ¿hero¿ from Hamish.

The clannishness of a Highland village can be a blessing to those in charge, but it can also impede the legal system as seen in DEATH OF A DUSTMAN. This is a who-done-it in which every villager could be the culprit because the victim was universally hated. The mystery is cleverly crafted, but the heart of M.C. Beaton¿s novel remains Hamish.

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent. The cast of characters is magnificent - some old and some new. The descriptions of the highlands and highlanders is fantastic writing. The reader feels right there in the village with them. M.C. Beaton is one of my favorite authors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love M.C. Beaton's work. Hamish Macbeth is one of my favorite characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago