Agatha Raisin and the Witches’ Tree (#28) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 3 October 2017 (print)/ 23 November 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Minotaur Books /Audible
Pages: 192/6 hrs and 33 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Cotswolds inhabitants are used to inclement weather, but the night sky is especially foggy as Rory and Molly Devere, the new vicar and his wife, drive slowly home from a dinner party in their village of Sumpton Harcourt. They strain to see the road ahead―and then suddenly brake, screeching to a halt. Right in front of them, aglow in the headlights, a body hangs from a gnarled tree at the edge of town. Margaret Darby, an elderly spinster, has been murdered―and the villagers are bewildered as to who would commit such a crime.

Agatha Raisin rises to the occasion (a little glad for the excitement, to tell the truth, after a long run of lost cats and divorces on the books). But Sumpton Harcourt is a small and private village, she finds―a place that poses more questions than answers. And when two more murders follow the first, Agatha begins to fear for her reputation―and even her life. That the village has its own coven of witches certainly doesn’t make her feel any better…

I didn’t care much about the murders or the mystery, I paid more attention to the filler bits about the characters and their day to day which is odd since usually that’s the tedious part. This time around it was certainly the more interesting part of the book.

I have no issue admitting I have no idea what was going on in the wider story, a lot of little things happened that involved a range of people that favoured my attention more. I genuinely got to the end and realised I had no idea who had been the murderer. It could be Beaton brushed over it so quickly that it truly was a non-event but I think that the murders are less of a feature in these books of late. So often they seem to take a back seat to the general interactions around Agatha and other characters, despite this approach rarely paying off successfully.

The different village is always a nice addition. I think you really can’t sustain multiple murders in a single village, even if they are always the newcomer. Beaton’s crude humour and jarring references can shock you from what is meant to be a cosy mystery but so many books in you can only roll your eyes and keep going.

I found there were contradictory moments around Agatha, it’s like Beaton couldn’t decide if she was fearful for her life or doesn’t care what happens, either through bravado or something else. Agatha must always have her life threatened by various people but this time she alternated between fearful and blasé. If it switched between books that would be one thing, but to have it change within the same book felt strange. This fits in with the overall inconsistencies of the story though, so many books lately need a tighter edit, both to stop inconsistencies and flesh out characters and dialogue more. With so many books now in the series it’s crying out for something new and fresh on the page instead of the usual diatribe.

James rears his head long enough to be an absolute horrible person and I don’t know whether the fact he is Agatha’s on and again off again neighbour, ex-husband, and once established character is why we can’t cast him out, make him move villages or outright murder him and dump him in a local pond.

I am still waiting for Agatha and Charles to realise they should be together. It is truly some of the only good writing in these books the interactions between these two. I like their banter and how Charles cares for Agatha despite the fact he is cheap and a philanderer, and Agatha cares about him in her own way. Beaton is definitely hinting at it and comes so close that to take the extra step it would be an amazing move, and one to finally stop her lusting after every man she meets. Redoing her makeup five times a day, changing her outfit all the time, and wallowing about her age, envious of teenagers and general irritability would all be fixed if she settled with Charles and be satisfied with herself.

I’m so close to finishing this series I can see the end in sight. I’m hoping for good and better things but I’ve been hit with whiplash before as all the progress made suddenly is shafted and we’re back to resetting the characters into shadows of their evolved selves. One can only reluctantly pick up the next book and find out.

You can purchase Agatha and the Witches’ Tree via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. C.Lu
    Mar 07, 2023 @ 17:12:38

    M.C. Beaton’s “Agatha Raisin” stories got me through some hard times. At times I needed a story to distract me from life and hers did. I liked some of them more than others, but I expect that to be the case in a series like this.



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