Hamish Macbeth, lone policeman in the village of Lubdoch, Scotland, is once again challenged by murder on his turf. This time, the victim is Fergus Macleod, the village dustman, who has recently been upgraded, at double his salary, from garbage collector to environment officer courtesy of Mrs. Freda Fleming, a councilwoman who plans to make Lubdoch picture-perfect and herself a TV personality. Fergus’s own brush with fortune is short-lived, though: soon after his promotion he’s found in the trash bin of the Curry sisters, killed by a blow to the head. While Clarry, Hamish’s new assistant, questions Fergus’s widow Martha, who’d long suffered his drunken beatings, Hamish uncovers a trove of letters Fergus had used to blackmail some of the villagers. He’s scarcely begun to interview the blackmail victims when crofter Angus Ettric’s wife Kristy finds him dead on their kitchen floor, a second murder victim. The presence of Greek mogul Ionedes, overseeing the hotel he’s building in competition with Tommel Castle Hotel (owned by Colonel Halburton-Smythe, father of Hamish’s on- and off-girlfriend Priscilla), complicates matters. Hamish continues to withhold the villagers’ secrets from his superiors, losing his sergeant’s stripes but pinning down Fergus’s killer, with the solution to the second murder not far behind.
Pretty much the same mix, with plotting more complex than usual but lively enough to hold the reader to the finish. Hamish’s 16th is another winner for his prolific chronicler (Death of an Addict, 1999, etc.).