In the south of Scotland, residents get their chimneys vacuum-cleaned. But in the isolated villages in the very north of Scotland, the villagers rely on the services of the itinerant sweep, Pete Ray, and his old-fashioned brushes. Pete is always able to find work in the Scottish highlands, until one day when Police Constable Hamish Macbeth notices blood dripping onto the floor of a villager's fireplace, and a dead body stuffed inside the chimney.
The entire town of Lochdubh is certain Pete is the culprit, but Hamish doesn't believe that the affable chimney sweep is capable of committing murder. Then Pete's body is found on the Scottish moors, and the mystery deepens. Once again, it's up to Hamish to discover who's responsible for the dirty deed - and this time, the murderer may be closer than he realizes.
Unfortunately the stories are increasingly following the current fashion for endless murder and forensic detail, multi-national organised crime. The traditional idiot polis outwitted by an eccentric outsider continues, with Beaton's additional handicaps for detectives- booze, Freemasonry and Rotary Club membership!
I wouldn't wish to believe, or for anyone else to think, that "Police Scotland", or any of its predecessors have ever been such a parcel of bampots and heidbangers, and even though Hamish regards Lochdubh as paradise there are hardly any happy families or marriages (time for a devoted gay family, 2 parents & children to arrive- and NOT be murdered!
Hamish is a prematurely "grumpy old man", a Victor Meldrew who has the Gaelic and a horror of intimacy, possibly explicable at least in part by cramped personal space in childhood- a bedroom, or even a bed to oneself beyond imagining. Though he sent money home to his family- in the old way- he doesn't bother his bonnet about his sibs, and gives his mother little consideration. In Lochdubh humans don't get older, or wiser; only Angela and Elspeth develop as people though technology, communication, and, according to Beaton, the evil demands of the EU, evolve.
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