A low-risk way to learn whether or not you want to read more by an author is to read a short story. Inexpensive (typically 99 cents on Amazon Kindle) or even free, it’s a good way for a reader to decide whether or not to risk more money and time.
I’d heard of M.C. Beaton (1936-2019) but hadn’t read anything by her. She’d written a considerable number of historical novels and mysteries. She’s best known for her detective series starring Hamish Macbeth, an observant and intelligent police detective working in Lochdubh, Scotland. Bright, smart, intelligent – and totally lacking ambition.
In Knock, Knock, You’re Dead, a short story first published in 2006, Macbeth is making his rounds and likes to check on the elderly and others living alone. He drives to a small sheep farm (or croft) outside of town and visits with Morag McPhie, a lady in her 50s living by herself and raising sheep. She’s trying to figure out how to afford the air fare to Australia to visit her daughter. One obvious way to sell a “piece of old furniture” that antique owners are hunting for. Macbeth primises to send along any antique shoppers or agents he runs across.
And he does come across one and sends him to Morag. The next day, Macbeth finds himself back at Morag’s; a dead woman is in the parlor and it’s not Morag. Instead, it’s the local busybody who makes everyone’s business her own.
In 20 pages, Beaton spins a pretty good yarn. And she’s sold me. There are some 37 books in the Hamish Macbeth series, and Knock, Knock, You’re Dead is a good introduction.