M.C. Beaton’s Scottish detective protagonist Hamish Macbeth returns in Death of a Scriptwriter, published by Mysterious Press, copyright 1998.
This continuation of the Hamish Macbeth series introduces us to Patricia Martyn-Broyd who has for many years been known as one of Scotland’s most favored detective novelists. In the last decade, however sales of her books have fallen off almost completely so when she is approached by an agent for a television producer and asked if they could use her writings as the foundation for a series of programs she is surprised and elated. Patricia would love nothing more than to have her works come to life again.
Fiona King, the producer, comes to detective Hamish Macbeth and asks about appropriate locations to stage the production of one of Patricia’s stories, The Case of the Rising Tides. Hamish directs her to a secluded and dreary place on a nearby loch that has a castle that has been renovated and transformed into a bed and breakfast. The village of Drim is located at the edge of the loch and has a population with very little excitement in their lives so when they hear that the pilot movie is going to be filmed in their area the locals get very excited.
Aspiring writer Sheila Buford, who is helping with the filming, comes to the village and is very happy to see all the willing extras the movie might need. Harry Frame, who is the executive producer, acquires Garvase Hart who is a semi-famous pornography star, and Penelope Gates, who has a very beautiful body and a very jealous husband named Josh. The scriptwriter, Jamie Gallager, decides to alter the story to have it take place in the nineteen sixties at a commune at Drim Castle. It requires a lot of nudity and though the original plot premise is followed and the name of the detective is the same, the principal female character, “Lady Hariot Vere”, has become a voluptuous mostly naked twenty-year-old blonde girl.
Patricia visits the location as they are filming and is very upset and disgusted at what they have done to her book’s story. She is very proud and vain about her work and threatens to kill the scriptwriter Jamie. One evening, after all the other movie people have retired to the castle, Jamie is found dead at the production site; his body laying in the heather. Hamish Macbeth takes on the case but is stymied by the numerous possible leads and motives.
Angus Harris becomes a suspect because he was a good friend of the man who claims to have been a student of Jamie and had submitted the script for the screenplay that Jamie used for his claim to fame through the film Football Fever. Angus’ friend died of AIDS and left his estate to Angus along with all of the his rights to any proceeds from his writings, which could understandably cause resentment on the part of Angus since one of his late friend’s most profitable works was stolen by another. This is only one of many motives to kill Jamie.
Hamish gets kicked off the case by Inspector Blair and is stood up on dates he has made with Sheila, but figures the demands of television production have her full of things to do. Yet far more than production deadlines begin to cause tension as locals and movie personalities alike begin to compete for attention and fame in a rapidly escalating mixture of intrigue, business politics, and murder.
Once again M.C. Beaton has brought to us a truly fascinating tale of how Hamish Macbeth solves murder crimes.
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