I expect I’m teaching my grandmother to suck eggs here today: I’m sure you’ve forgotten more about these stories than I will ever know; I expect you’ve seen the TV series, got the DVD and bought the set of coasters: but this was my first encounter with he-who-must-not-be-named-by-theatrical-folk, ie M C Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth. (Incidentally, they’d have a real problem putting this on in the theatre, wouldn’t they?) Macbeth is a village bobby who punches above his weight through a combination of observational powers and local knowledge and solves crimes that trained CID officers can’t…. yeah, yeah, you get the picture. At the lighter end of crime fiction, these books represent a latterday expression of the Agatha Christie tendency: a murder or murders, a set of possible suspects each with something to hide, who are eliminated one by one only for some of them to pop back under suspicion again; an interesting setting and a thoughtful and intuitive sleuth. Still, I didn’t find Macbeth all that engaging; I found most of the other characters uninteresting and frankly unmemorable, the locality was not clearly evoked, and her way of describing Macbeth’s accent was at times bizarre. There wasn’t much here that I’d hoped to find: no comforting portrayal of village life, no stunning evocation of landscape – so I may not bother again, although I suspect this is the sort of series that grows on you as you get to know the characters. I’m sure it makes very good TV.