Arms of Death
Murder and mayhem is part of the legacy of the House of Forbes. In 1571 clans Gordon and Forbes clashed in the battles of Craibstone and Tillieangus over differences over whether Queen Mary or her son, James VI, should rule Scotland. In the 18th century, Duncan Forbes of Culloden and Alexander Forbes, Lord Pitsligo, fought on opposing sides during the Jacobite Uprisings to great personal sacrifice.
Murder and mayhem is still on the minds of their descendants, as evidenced by the engaging mystery Arms of Death by Clan Forbes Society member M. Hollis Hutchinson writing under the pen name of Maggie Foster. Ms. Foster has replaced castles and moors with libraries and hospitals – but the Scottish culture and passion remain strong.
In the tradition of the “cozy” mysteries of Miss Marple and Peter Wimsey, reluctant amateur sleuth Ginny Forbes, R.N., tackles the mysterious death in her Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a genealogist of her acquaintance and who specializes in heraldry. Perplexed by his infection by a rare virus, Ginny starts a spreadsheet of “means,” “motive,” and “opportunity.” Through her sleuthing, she expands the spreadsheet to ensnare many of the people around her – until she herself becomes a target.
Ms. Foster skillfully spins her tale of both suspects and love interests against the backdrop of the homestead of Loch Lonach, which she describes as “a Scottish community established before Texas became a republic” which “has retained its culture and identity.”
Drawing on both her medical knowledge and familiarity with Scottish culture, Ms. Foster weaves a page-turning mystery of twists and turns with a complex yet logical plot that leads to a satisfactory and realistic conclusion.
The best part of the tale is the protagonist Ginny Forbes: a competent modern-day heroine versed in medicine, internet research, genealogy, and heraldry. While she is not totally dependent on the men around her, she wouldn’t mind sharing a dram or a dance.
Ms. Foster was inspired to write this first of three mystery novels by the 1990 Clan Forbes ancestral tour. She and her mother visited many castles and historic sites, including Castle Forbes and the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games. As she planned her first book, she relates that it had to be “set in Texas and featuring characters I know well.” Therefore, she “created a community of descendants of the Scots who settled in Texas, named my heroine Forbes.”
Arms of Death subsequently won the 2019 Best of Texas Books award in the Medical Thriller category. Ms. Foster has completed sequels The Swick and the Dead and Viking Vengeance. She is currently working on the fourth volume which begins with the victim being found on the Highland Games field on Saturday morning with a caber on her head!
If you want to learn more, visit lochlonach.com. Ms. Foster is currently running a contest (Create-a-Corpse) that allows visitors to suggest a character for a future book. You, too, can assist in the fine Forbes tradition of murder and mayhem!