This splendidly tight and witty mystery, the latest in the Keith Calder series (In Camera), is set in the Scottish Borders district, within sight of the hills of England. Writer Simon Parbetter, who narrates, is only too happy to leave his word processor and go rabbiting with friends at Easter Coullie Farm. There, tenant farmer Old Murdo Heminson greets the party in his usual curmudgeonly way; within hours he will be found murdered, under baffling circumstances. Suspects abound: the vet with whom Old Murdo had been arguing; Duggie Bracken, the jack-of-all-trades he had attempted to swindle; Old Murdo's elder son, Bret, whom he had struck with his stick; Young Murdo, whose girlfriend he had insulted; Ken McKee, the girl's father; even Old Murdo's mountainous wife. Hammond's narrative is redolent of bracken and heather and single-malt whiskey. The crime and its inspired resolution pivot on a knowledge of air guns, which is supplied by gunsmith Calder, son-in-law of Detective Sgt. Ian Fellowes, who does his valiant best on the case but can't match his relative's savvy, so well displayed in this engrossing case. (Dec.)
Scottish gunsmith Keith Calder is one of detective fiction's most enduring and entertaining amateur sleuths. When his neighbor, foul-tempered tenant farmer Murdo Hemison, dies from an apparent blow to the head, the local constabulary have difficulty establishing how, let alone why. Hemison had offended virtually everyone who came within earshot through the years. His son, young Murdo, and wife were frequent targets of the old man's wrath, but the list of those he most despised included every one from the local veterinarian to tradesfolk to the tale's narrator, author Simon Parbitter. Many let old Murdo's insults pass, but someone decided to make the misanthrope pay for his sharp tongue. As always, it's Calder's insight into both the human heart and the physical world that solves the case. A clever little mystery complemented by memorable characters and an appealing portrait of Scottish country life.