|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (January 2014)|
Hamish Macbeth is a fictional police officer who serves as his town's 'bobby' in a series of mystery novels created by M. C. Beaton (Marion Chesney). The novels are published in the UK by Constable & Robinson. In an interview, the author recalls,
"I was at a fishing school in Sutherland in the very north of Scotland, and I thought, what a wonderful setting for a classical detective story, 11 people isolated in this Highland wilderness. So Hamish Macbeth was born."
Hamish Macbeth is the eldest of seven siblings and has three brothers and three sisters. His parents are crofters and as the eldest son, Hamish is expected to contribute to his family's income. He lives in Lochdubh's police station and keeps some sheep and chickens and grows some vegetables. He is occasionally guilty of poaching a salmon, sometimes for himself, but often as a gift or bribe for others.
Hamish has a reputation for laziness. He loves the town of Lochdubh (meaning 'black lake' (loch) in Gaelic and pronounced Lokh-DOO) and is content and at peace with his life and lacks ambition. Of great concern to Hamish and his fellow villagers is the threat of possible closure of Lochdubh's police station, something his superior and archenemy, Chief Inspector Blair, would like to see. Hamish avoids promotion, occasionally even deliberately destroying attempts to give him recognition for his accomplishments. His position as "local bobby," sees him sometimes left out of official investigations and he must often work outside official channels, as the detectives from neighbouring Strathbane CID do not appreciate his help. Despite this, it is Hamish's natural "Highland curiosity" and local knowledge and intuition that combine to solve crimes.
Early in the series, Hamish has an on-again, off-again love affair with Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, the daughter of a wealthy local landowner. The affair ultimately ends in a broken engagement; thereafter, his luck with women, including Elspeth Grant, a reporter with whom he has a relationship, is poor. Hamish is very attached to his pets, first his dog Towser, then in later books his dog Lugs (Scots for "ears") and a "domesticated" wildcat named Sonsie (Scots for "cheeky").
Hamish is tall and thin. He has hazel eyes and long eyelashes and fiery red hair.
This series of novels is set in the Scottish Highlands, in the fictional village of Lochdubh, in the real county of Sutherland. Although Lochdubh and the neighbouring town of Strathbane are fictional places, the series refers to real Scottish towns such as Dornoch, Dingwall and Inverness.
Recurrent characters in the series
- Hamish Macbeth Lochdubh's village policeman.
- Priscilla Halburton-Smythe Once the love of his life, the beautiful, cool Priscilla still tugs at his heartstrings and has assisted Hamish in solving crimes.
- Colonel Halburton-Smythe Priscilla's snobbish father. He dislikes Hamish immensely and considers him a most unsuitable friend for his daughter.
- Mary Halburton-Smythe Priscilla's timid mother.
- Elspeth Grant Local news reporter and sometimes love interest of Hamish. Her gypsy heritage gives her insights into her surroundings that Hamish comes to trust.
- Dr. Brodie The village doctor, who enjoys hearty cholesterol-laden meals.
- Angela Brodie The doctor's wife. Not very domestic and a poor cook.
- Nessie & Jessie Currie Twin sisters and the village spinsters whose knowledge of local gossip is useful to Hamish.
- Archie Maclean A fisherman who spends his time when not at sea at the harbour front or in the local pub to avoid his wife.
- Mrs. Maclean Archie's overly houseproud wife.
- Mrs. Wellington The local clergyman's wife. She has a loud, booming voice and is at the heart of Lochdubh's village life.
- Rev. Wellington A man with strong Christian values who is kindly and tolerant.
- Angus Macdonald An old man with the reputation of being a seer. Hamish believes that Angus is an old fraud with a network of gossipy contacts.
- Willie Lamont Hamish's former subordinate, Willie leaves the police force to marry Lucia, a relative of the local Italian restaurant owner, to devote himself to the restaurant.
- Lucia Lamont Willie Lamont's beautiful Italian wife.
- Mr. Patel An Indian immigrant who operates a local grocery shop in Lochdubh. Mr. Patel has developed a Highland accent and he and his family are accepted in Lochdubh as locals.
Police in Strathbane
- Superintendent Peter Daviot, who likes Hamish
- Susan Daviot his social-climbing wife, who aspires to befriend Priscilla Halburton-Smythe
- Helen, Daviot's secretary, who dislikes Hamish
- Detective Chief Inspector Blair, who also hates him (mostly because Hamish is competent and Blair is not); a fat whisky drinker who, on several occasions, is hospitalised with alcohol poisoning.
- Detective Inspector Jimmy Anderson, who likes Hamish
- Detective Sergeant Andy McNab, who likes Hamish
- Dr. Forsyth, a forensic pathologist
- Death of a Gossip (1985)
- Death of a Cad (1987)
- Death of an Outsider (1988)
- Death of a Perfect Wife (1989)
- Death of a Hussy (1990)
- Death of a Snob (1992 )
- Death of a Prankster (1992)
- Death of a Glutton (1993) Also published under the title "Death of a Greedy Woman"
- Death of a Travelling Man (1993)
- Death of a Charming Man (1994)
- Death of a Nag (1995)
- Death of a Macho Man (1996)
- Death of a Dentist (1997)
- Death of a Scriptwriter (1998)
- Death of an Addict (1999)
- A Highland Christmas (1999)
- Death of a Dustman (2001)
- Death of a Celebrity (2002)
- Death of a Village (2003)
- Death of a Poison Pen (2004)
- Death of a Bore (2005)
- Death of a Dreamer (2006)
- Death of a Maid (2007)
- Death of a Gentle Lady (2008)
- Death of a Witch (2009)
- Death of a Valentine (2010)
- Death of a Chimney Sweep (2011) Also published under the title "Death of a Sweep"
- Death of a Kingfisher (2012)
- Death of Yesterday (2013)
- Death of a Policeman (2014)
- Death of a Liar (2015)
- Knock, Knock, You're Dead (2016)
- Death of a Nurse (2016)
Hamish Macbeth was adapted into a BBC Scotland television series. Running for three series between 1995 and 1997, the titular police officer was played by Robert Carlyle: the first and second series comprised six episodes, the third had an additional 2-part series finale to make eight episodes. The series bore little relation to the content of Beaton's novels - Macbeth and Lochdubh transferred, in name at least, but little else survived.
The author was not happy with the Hamish Macbeth TV series. “It wasn’t like the books, I wrote about a six-foot laid back highlander and I got a 5ft 8” Glaswegian with a chip on his shoulder,” Beaton says. “It was an unfortunate experience.”
The TV adaptations took several liberties with the plots, combining elements from several novels into each episode, changing the details enough to make them work together.
While Beaton was not happy with the changes, the TV series developed a loyal fan base, and many viewers have since come to know the Hamish Macbeth that Beaton originally created. Her earlier novels are being reprinted and re-released to fill the gaps between new volumes.
Despite numerous offers to create a TV series of Agatha Raisin, Beaton is put off after Hamish Macbeth’s demise.
“It’s on its third TV option now, they keep trying and trying, it does put you off a bit.”
It seems as though Beaton is often left out of plans from her own creations, as she explains. “They wanted to do a making of Hamish Macbeth without even mentioning me at all,” Beaton joked. “However, it does lead to ideas to killing people.” 
- Fletcher, Connie. "M.C. Beaton." Booklist 102.17 (May 1, 2006): 28(1)
- "Police cutbacks seal fate of Scotland's rural bobby." Sunday Times (London, England) (Oct 17, 2004): 15.
- 'Hamish MacBeth' beat's new base.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/highlands_and_islands/8286922.stm