Are you a fan of cozy mystery books? Then you’re going to love these M.C. Beaton novels. M.C. Beaton is one of many pen names for the Scottish author Marion Gibbons (née Chesney), a prolific writer of romance and mystery novels. Under the name M.C. Beaton, this author wrote over 100 cozy mysteries in her lifetime. Many of these novels feature the detectives Agatha Raisin or Hamish Macbeth. And if you’re a fan of romance, M.C. Beaton throws a little bit of that in these books too. But with so many M.C. Beaton books to choose from, where on earth do you start? Here are the top ten best M.C. Beaton books, great for first-time readers and longtime fans of the cozy mystery author.
Death of a Gossip is the first book in M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series. Society widow and tabloid reporter Lady Jane Winter’s body has just been pulled out of the river. Now Hamish Macbeth, a police officer in the Scottish Highlands remote village of Lochdubh, must figure out who was provoked enough to kill this woman. Jane Winter exposed so many people’s guilty secrets, so there is a long list of suspects.
In this book, we meet Agatha Raisin, an amateur sleuth who gives up her PR firm to live a quiet life in the Cotswold village of Carsely. But the town isn’t as peaceful as it first appears. Looking for a bit of fun, Raisin enters her quiche into the village’s local baking contest, but to Agatha’s surprise and dismay, Judge Cummings-Browne falls over dead. Apparently Agatha’s quiche was poisoned!
We return to the world of Hamish Macbeth for the next M.C. Beaton novel on this list. The entire town of Lochdubh is thrilled to meet Priscilla Halburton-Smythe’s London playwright fiancé, whom she is finally bringing home to meet everyone. Wait, did I say the entire town? There’s one person who isn’t so thrilled about Priscilla’s engagement… and that would be Hamish Macbeth. But when one of the guests at Priscilla’s engagement party is murdered, everything is shaken up. And now Hamish will have to solve a murder while also getting Priscilla out of this horrible engagement.
For this next read, let’s pop ahead a few books in the Hamish Macbeth series. This is the 30th book in the series, because a wonderful thing about these cozy mysteries is that they’re episodic enough that you can skip around in the books and still enjoy them. In Death of a Liar, Hamish Macbeth receives word that a woman in the small village of Cronish in the Scottish Highlands has been brutally attacked, and her attacker is still on the loose. But is this woman being completely truthful about what happened to her?
Here’s a short story that comes next in the Hamish Macbeth series after Death of a Liar. This story starts innocently enough. Mrs. Morag McPhie decides she wants to sell her old furniture to raise money so she can visit her daughter who lives all the way in Australia. But then a dead body turns up, and Hamish has the clues to solve the case.
Let’s have a little more Hamish Macbeth! New people have moved to the town of Sutherland, James Harrison and his private nurse Gloria Dainty. When Hamish tries to pay them a visit to welcome them to the neighborhood, he finds that James Harrison is rude, while Gloria Dainty is… beautiful and alluring. Wanting to get to know Gloria a little better, Hamish invites her to dinner. But on the night of their date, she never arrives. Four days later, Gloria’s body washes up on the beach, and Hamish has a new murder mystery on his hands.
There are so many wonderful Hamish Macbeth novels to choose from, so let’s keep the ball rolling with the next book in the Hamish Macbeth series, Death of a Ghost. In this novel, Hamish investigates a haunted castle near Drim with the help of his policeman, Charlie "Clumsy" Carson. Hamish is certain the talk of hauntings are probably just teenagers goofing around, but then Hamish and Charlie find something concerning in the basement: a dead body propped against a wall.
This is the last Hamish Macbeth novel in the series, and it’s the final one that will make this list of the best M.C. Beaton books. However, if you need more Hamish Macbeth books, please know there are plenty more where these came from. So here’s what Death of an Honest Man is about. Newcomer Paul English loves to be honest. To a fault. He tells the minister at the church in Lochdubh that his sermons were boring. He calls Mrs. Wellington fat. He tells Angela Brody that her mystery novels are a waste of time and that she should focus on real literature. Is it really surprising that that type of honesty got Paul killed?
For the final two books on this list, we return to amateur sleuth Agatha Raisin. Everyone in town is enamored with the handsome veterinarian Paul Bladen, including Agatha herself. Then, in a shocking twist, Dr. Bladen is accidentally injected with a shot meant for a horse, and he dies instantly. Or was it an accident? Agatha Raisin isn’t so sure.
In the third book in M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series, Agatha returns home to find that her handsome neighbor James Lacey has become involved with an attractive newcomer, Mary Fortune. Agatha is also romantically interested in her neighbor, so she immediately compares herself to this new woman and finds herself lacking in every way. Especially when it comes to gardening. The only way for Agatha to prove her superiority would be to have another murder mystery to solve. Luckily for Agatha, nothing in Carsely stays calm for long…