Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage (#5) by M.C. Beaton

Published: 1st December 1996 (print)/13 March 2009 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Constable & Robinson/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 264/5 hrs and 56 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Two husbands and a funeral!

The morning of Agatha’s marriage to James Lacey dawns bright and clear. But the storm clouds of the day before would have been more appropriate when Agatha’s first husband, Jimmy Raisin, turns up at the church just in time to keep her from committing bigamy. The ensuing uproar – Agatha tries to strangle Jimmy, whom she had thought long-dead anyway – embarrasses James, who breaks the engagement.

When Jimmy is found murdered the next morning, Agatha is the perfect suspect. Since the easiest way to clear her name is to find the real murderer, Agatha convinces James to help her investigate. But will their subsequent close proximity – which has them, ironically, pretending to be man and wife – be enough to win James second time around?

After five books it finally happened: Agatha snagged James in the most unbelievable romance ever to happen. After a proposal in the previous book that comes from nowhere, suddenly this story opens with it being their wedding day. I’m sure somewhere in between we’re meant to imagine a romantic engagement and wedding planning, loving interactions or even a demonstration of their romantic feelings in a realistic way because it certainly doesn’t come across in the book.

Agatha is completely obsessed with James, while James doesn’t appear to like Agatha. His reaction over being tricked by Agatha is harsh and one that I understand and also feel is a nice cop out for Beaton since I’m sure James never actually loved Agatha given everything he says and does at any point in time. His reasons for finding her attractive are shallow, but he is also controlling, demanding, and it highlights how desperate and deprived of affection Agatha is because she clings to this and ignores every red flag.

The curious thing is, while James has been uninterested in Agatha and her advances until now, he’s suddenly become meaner than previous portrayed. You could put this down to his rage at being humiliated at the church and his anger at Agatha, but even when the pair of them are working together his snide remarks and comments are hurtful and as previously mentioned, I never saw James show any real affection for Agatha and yet now he is even less of a friend and simply cruel. This could also be because previously James wasn’t a fleshed out character and now suddenly he needs to have emotions and a personality when before he had barely any of either.

We find out in the previous book how Agatha’s ex managed to find out she was about to get married which is fairly dirty given who does it and why. That was a shock to be fair because it is done out of spite and I’m amazed at how it panned out in this story. Agatha is also to blame for these events so it’s hard to have any real sympathy for her though.

Agatha’s reactions are over the top but her desire to clear her name are sound, even if she does so mainly by blundering about while also having near death experiences. This propels the story and is a legitimate reason for Agatha so be snooping and investigating. There is a lot of village life explored this time, with all the gossip and stigma around the scandal at the church, we also get to find out more of Agatha’s past and what she has been trying to hide. What I found interesting was even understanding where Agatha had come from and seeing how it affected her I didn’t warm up to her any more than before. But it did add some depth to her character which is important since Beaton seems averse to providing depth to her characters beyond the same physical descriptors over and over.

Credit to Beaton for giving us more on her characters and their histories, as well as making some complicated relationships for intrigue. The mystery was engaging and interestingly chaotic and aside from the few changes to characters which jar the story slightly it was an enjoyable read.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

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Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley (#4) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 4th August 2009 (print)/1st July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 192/4 hrs and 40 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Agatha Raisin joins Dembley hiking club to pursue handsome Cotswold neighbour James Lacey. Angry member Jessica targets wealthy landowner Charles Fraith, who retaliates with tea invitation, but her body is found dead on his grounds. Agatha and James investigate the crime, the group ready to kill.

I didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much as the others. This was almost an uneventful story and it couldn’t hold my interest, no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t focus on the story and my mind kept wandering. I think in part it was the long dialogue between the walkers and the story in general, there was nothing engaging about it.

Even during the reveal of the culprit I found myself tuning out because I wasn’t interested. Nothing in the story had grabbed me enough to care about these characters or what they were doing. The most interesting part of the whole thing was at the very end with the set up for the events in the next book.

The story isn’t set in the village of Carsley and as a result we are introduced to a host of new characters. After the events at the end of the last book where Agatha returned to London briefly, she gets herself involved with the walkers through her desire to get fit, and as usual goes over the top and her vanity and complaints take up a lot of sentences.

With a lot of the focus on the walkers most of the story revolves around them, as well as those in the surrounds of the new village like Sir Charles Fraith. I liked how Charles tells Agatha outright that she shouldn’t pursue James because I never connected with this love match Beaton is trying for. They get together to start sleuthing about who the murderer could be, but since James has shown barely any interest in Agatha, often seems to dislike her at times, it’s weird trying to force them together.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley via the following

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 Fishpond | Amazon | Audible

The Potted Gardener (#3) by M.C. Beaton

Published: 15th July 1994 (print)/1st August 2010 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 256/4 hrs and 44 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Never say die. That’s the philosophy Agatha Raisin clings to when she comes home to cozy Carsely and finds a new woman ensconced in the affections of her attractive bachelor neighbour, James Lacey.

The beautiful newcomer, Mary Fortune, is superior in every way, especially when it comes to gardening. And Agatha, that rose with many thorns, hasn’t a green thumb to her name. With garden Open Day approaching, she longs for a nice juicy murder to remind James of her genius for investigation.

And sure enough, a series of destructive assaults on the finest gardens is followed by an appalling murder. Agatha seizes the moment and immediately starts yanking up village secrets by their roots and digging up all the dirt on the victim. Problem is, Agatha has an awkward secret of her own.

I really enjoyed this story. I’m new to the cosy mystery genre and while Agatha is a difficult character to like, once you read a few books you can adjust and settle in knowing it’s going to be that kind of book where she is self-centred, brash and rude but also with a quaint village and a murder so hopefully it balances out. It’s just a shame she’s the main character.

Credit to Beaton for her creativity with these murders, they haven’t been dull and uneventful and I really liked the motivation behind this murder. The mystery was satisfying and being a short book there wasn’t a lot of characters in play and misdirection going on but I enjoyed the different villagers and their unique personalities.

More village life is explored and with rituals like the garden open day more of Agatha’s personal infatuations and place in the village are described. There are humour and antics, not laugh out loud but there are scenes where Agatha behaves a certain way that is comical or the characters say something funny.

I have to say I did enjoy the quirky characters, I also loved James’ complete confusion about Agatha. He says he wants her but then is scared when she wants him. His reasoning is very basic and in a way he is as uninterested in Agatha as before, and whether we’re meant to root for her or pity Agatha for trying I’m not sure.

There is a cynical approach looking at how Agatha behaves and her motivations, but at the same time it’s easy to look through it at as her being scared of being humiliated and judged. She is no nonsense and loves praise and accolades and when this entire village is made up of strange characters acting strange and saying strange things it’s hard not to find it enjoyable.

 

You can purchase The Potted Gardener via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

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The Vicious Vet (#2) by M.C. Beaton

Published: 15th July 1994 (print)/1st July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 256/5 hrs and 13 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Retired PR boss Agatha Raisin is enjoying life in her pretty Cotswold village of Carsely. It even seems likely that the attractive new vet, Paul Bladen, has taken a shine to her. But before romance can blossom, Paul is killed in an accident with Lord Pendlebury’s horse. Only the circumstances are rather suspicious.

Agatha decides she must once more play amateur investigator. And this cloud has a silver lining – she can persuade her usually stand-offish neighbour, James Lacey, to become her partner in the quest. As usual, Agatha is quite prepared to rush in, heedless of the lurking menace to both James and herself.

I liked the mystery and the story was a nice length, a good mix of personal and mystery going on. Agatha’s obsession with her appearance and looking youthful make her act like a fool and do stupid things but that is who she is. Her abrasiveness and her rudeness are passed over by other people as she still manages to start investigating with James about the latest murder.

Beaton shows Agatha as having keen observational skills and great mind for detail and deduction which is how she manages to work out why these murders happen. It’s like the old stories where the police are incompetent and the solo amateur can solve the crime except the police aren’t entirely inept here and it’s more Agatha’s nosiness and desire to solve the mystery.

We see more of village life now that Agatha has settled in and we get to know a few of the villagers and Agatha’s relationships with them. We also see her growing infatuation with her neighbour James Lacey, but he doesn’t seem interested. The other characters are what you’d expect from a quaint village: vicar’s wives and ladies society members, as well as curmudgeon estate owners and other minor characters who pop in for the one or two lines and then disappear. Most are mentioned in passing but people like Mrs Bloxby and James are gradually becoming more established as key characters as they help Agatha adjust to village life and solve the murders around her.

Agatha is definitely a person you have to grow to tolerate, she is unlikable and annoying as a character but if that’s the way Beaton is portraying her then so be it. Her contrast to the other characters and people in the village show how much of an outsider she is but she tries to fit in in her own way which you have to give her credit for.

You can purchase The Vicious Vet via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

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The Quiche of Death (#1) by M.C. Beaton

Published: 7th March 2006 (print)/5th July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Paperbacks/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 246/6 hrs and 25 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Mystery
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Agatha has moved to a picture-book English village and wants to get in the swing. So she buys herself a quiche for the village quiche-making contest and is more than alarmed when it kills a judge. Hot on the trail of the poisoner, Agatha is fearless, all the while unaware, that she’s become the next victim….

I quite enjoyed this book. Agatha comes to the village from her big city job and Beaton provides all the explanations and justifications about why it’s possible. The problem being Agatha has built up in her mind what this kind of life would look like not understanding her own personality doesn’t quite fit in.

Agatha’s personality clashes with the gentler folk in the village but her own determination and insecurities push back and she gets herself into village life as she tries to live the life she’s always dreamt about. Entering the competition to try and assimilate but with no baking skills whatsoever she enters a bought quiche which cause more trouble and exposes Agatha’s fraud at the same time.

In a way you feel sorry for her, but other times you can see she only has herself to blame. The fact Beaton points out that prior to arriving at Carsely Agatha never had any friends is meant to make you sympathise with her, but also demonstrating her behaviour and interactions with other people it’s understandable why.

It’s a cosy mystery with a few rough edges. Agatha herself has a few rough edges herself as she smokes, drinks, swears and descents upon this quite village with her brashness and controlling nature. Coming from a world where money talks she uses that to solve her problems and her effect on the village is immediate.

The mystery itself was quite good, there are clues and secrets and it blends in with getting to know these new characters so the two work side by side. Keith does a good job as narrator, she has unique voices for the different characters and you can tell who’s going to be a reoccurring character. The story is a quick read but it didn’t feel incomplete, you get a sense of who the characters are and who Agatha is. Being the start of the series there are plenty of future stories to expand upon all the characters we have met and to delve further into the Carsely life.

You can purchase The Quiche of Death via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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