All of us know have come across the person who says impossibly rude things whose defense is always, “I’m just being honest.” Honesty becomes the hall pass for racism, sexism, bigotry, meanness, and spite. I think honesty would like to bow out, but as long as there are people, there will be the “honest man” who steamrolls through life making enemies everywhere and every day.

Paul English is just such an honest man, honestly awful, and sure enough, he ends up dead in a peat bog. The question for Hamish and his colleague Charlie is who didn’t want to kill him. For some, the only reason to look for the killer is to know where to send the thank you cards. Hamish, though, doesn’t like the idea of a killer running around his patch. Once that taboo is broken, murderers often kill again, and sure enough…

Meanwhile, Hamish and Charlie have to deal with the corrupt, drunk cop Blair who Hamish thinks is homicidal. The internal drama among the police is shockingly bad.

Having watched the entire Hamish Macbeth series, I thought I knew what to expect from Death of an Honest Man by M. C. Beaton. I know that TV adaptations may diverge from their originals. For example, while the television series has Phryne Fisher and Jack in a will-they-won’t-they romance, there is no romance in the books. Characters disappear or merge into a composite, and sometimes even the crime and the bad guy turn out differently. But I think this is the first time where the mood of the novel is in sharp contrast to the TV series. There is far more menace in the books. There is something genial and charming in the TV series, Hamish is bemused by the locals. Here Hamish is more a part of the local community, not so much an observer.

I liked Death of an Honest Man. There is a strong sense of the community and of place. The mystery is satisfyingly complicated. There’s a bit of deux ex machina and hints of supernatural intervention, but then it is rural Scotland and in keeping with the community sensibility. I was less sanguine about the Blair storyline and the seeming acceptance of domestic violence.  Still, it makes me interested in reading more.

I received an e-galley of Death of an Honest Man from the publisher through NetGalley.