“Is anything funny going on here? There’s an odd atmosphere and then you’ve all been at the kirk and it isn’t even Sunday.”
M.C. Beaton, Death of a Village
Hamish Macbeth is a fictional policeman in the Scottish Highlands who seeks tranquility. He is content with little crime, the hours he can spend gazing at the water of a sea loch, caring for his few sheep and hiking with his strange looking dog.
His superiors attempt to promote him out of his backwater village along the Atlantic to the mouldering city of Strathbane with its abandoned factories, unemployment, grim concrete apartment blocks, and growing drug trade. The lights, traffic, theaters and clubs havenae attraction. He prefers the folk who quietly move about their own business and behave in predictable fashion.
In Death of a Village Hamish reads his neighboring boroughs and their citizens as he would a well-loved book. He describes his disquiet to a neighbor.
“There was a strange atmosphere when I was there."
"Well, ye cannae be arresting an atmosphere,” and with that she closed the door firmly.
Hamish investigates through observation. He questions any change in behavior and habitual activity. The normal ebb and flow of village life serves as the sostenuto pedal held down by tradition. Out-of-the-ordinary occurrences disrupt the typical resonation and signal Hamish of danger. Conflict results in undesirable vibrations from his citizens and informs him of aberrant behavior afoot.
Anxiety passes through a group of people like cancer cells with no boundaries invade a body, unwelcome and indefinable. When mechanical imbalance sets one member of a wind chime to vibrating, it causes movement in each related piece. If the cause is not identified and calmly isolated, the group sparks like a tangle of electrical wire arcing in a storm. Even when fair weather returns, the lines of communication are snarled and harmony is impossible. Chaos takes on a life of its own.
“Do you have nay idea why Major Jenning’s cottage got blown up?” Hamish asked.
“It’s something to do with the villagers. I’m sure of that. There’s a sort of religious mania emanating from them.”
“You mean God told them to do it?” He shook his head.
“Something like that,” said Elspeth vaguely. “Oh, look, I can see a little patch of blue sky ahead.”