Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham (#8) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 15th December 1999 (print)/ 1st July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 196/5 hrs and 37 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The local ladies all deem Mr John a wizard, so when Agatha finds a few grey hairs on her head, she makes a beeline for the handsome Evesham hairdresser. As well as sorting out her hair it soon becomes clear the charming man also has designs on her heart – but their future together is cut short when Mr John is fatally poisoned in his salon.

It’s hard to pick up an Agatha Raisin book randomly in the middle of a series because they so often follow immediately on from one another you feel like you’re coming in the middle of a scene. Even when Beaton recaps about who everyone is and how Agatha ended up in Carsley the stories still open following on from the last chapter of the previous book most of the time. This is one of those times where the events of the previous book are still playing out.

I really enjoyed this story, probably in part because there was a good murder to focus on, and because James was not in the story so there was less pining and whining going on about him. Agatha’s vanity is out in force and so are her judgements. For someone so scared of being judged by others, she does a fair amount of judging of her own.

The murder is intriguing, a lot of misdirection but it ends up being relatively obvious. But it’s easy to get caught up in the characters and their misadventures while they try and solve the mystery so it is quite enjoyable. Agatha pushes boundaries and breaks so many laws while she inserts herself into this investigation but that’s part of her charm and Beaton does show there are often consequences for doing so, this is no exception.

I loved how we saw more of Charles, he is a fun character who flits in and out of Agatha’s life as he pleases. He is also a good friend to her and they have a better relationship than Agatha does with most people. She frustrates him and he can be flippant and self-centred but at this point I think every character except Mrs Bloxby and Bill Wong are self-centred in some way. His inclusion added some fun and humour into the books which had been missing for a while and it gives readers a break from all the bland or horrible characters we’ve seen so far.

After a few dodgy storylines I’m glad that the stories are seemingly back on track. I know when all the characters are back in the picture it will probably revert back to despair and lovesick Agatha but Beaton can often write an interesting murder mystery so hopefully that outweighs the rest.

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Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death (#7) by M. C. Beaton

Published: August 1998 (print)/ 1st July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Press/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 184/5 hrs and 45 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Agatha Raisin’s neighbouring village of Ancombe is usually the epitome of quiet rural charm, but the arrival of a new mineral-water company – which intends to tap into the village spring – sends tempers flaring and divides the parish council into two stubborn camps.

When Agatha, who just happens to be handling the PR for the water company, finds the council chairman murdered at the basin of the spring, tongues start wagging. Could one of the council members have polished off the chairman before he could cast the deciding vote?

Poor Agatha, still nursing a bruised heart from one of her unsuccessful romantic encounters, must get cracking, investigate the councillors and solve the crime.

Agatha’s previous life in PR is the initial focus of the story which is refreshing. I also love that we’re moving around to other villages so poor Carsley isn’t the only village losing residents or visitors on a regular basis. For getting out of the game Agatha gets dragged back into it fairly regularly, but even with the PR job and the new town to explore there isn’t a lot in way of plot. It was interesting enough but there isn’t a lot of substance.

There are a lot new characters as we’re introduced to the new village but there are enough regular characters that it isn’t unrelatable or off-putting. Most of them are introduced as Agatha attempts to investigate on her own, resulting in frustrations and aggravations and Agatha getting off side with people, in her defense they are annoying people.

Emotions are at the forefront of a lot of the story as Agatha continues to recover from James and her feelings for him; she’s hurt, angry and alone. Finally in an effort to move on she finds comfort in someone else she meets while working which sets off the village gossip and people start judging her business. Character descriptions are always very basic and never change in these books; Agatha is perpetually in her early 50s with bear like eyes and great legs, and while normally her age isn’t a huge factor to anyone but herself, this time her age is a talking point of every one as she falls for a younger man.

Roy Silver makes another appearance and even beyond the James/Agatha romance stretch is the one where Agatha keeps in touch with this man. He isn’t classed as a friend, he is always an ex-employee and he often does more harm than good and is more self-centred and career focused than Agatha. But he is the way in for Agatha to do some PR business and gets the story going and with James working in competition he’s someone she can investigate with.

Overall it was a good story, the character’s stories progressed even if the murder and mystery aspect was a letdown.

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Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist (#6) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 1st April 2010 (print)/ 1st July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Paperbacks/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 212/5 hrs and 45 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★  – 2 Stars

In this sixth entertaining outing Agatha leaves the sleepy Cotswold village of Carsely to pursue love – and finds a murderer. Spurned at the altar, she follows her fleeing fiancé James Lacey to Cyprus, where, instead of enjoying the honeymoon they’d planned, they witness the killing of an obnoxious tourist in a disco. Intrigue and a string of murders surround the unlikely couple, in a plot as scorching as the Cypriot sun!

It seems while we’re still in the midst of the wedding drama aftermath there’s going to be some focus on Agatha and James. Even in another country with another murder the focus still revolves around the pair of them and their glaring incompatibility. There’s no mistaking Agatha’s desperation this time as she literally stalks James when he leaves the country and goes on the holiday they’d planned for their honeymoon. James hasn’t improved either; you can’t quite believe the James/Agatha story should go on the way he treats her. It isn’t that he can’t express his emotions, it is that he’s an absolute horrible person to her and then turns around and asks why she’s crying after he’s berated her.

The actual story is way too long, it drags on for the sake of pages or words and there’s no substantial mystery to cling onto. There’s no connection to these characters so when one is murdered it isn’t a big deal and Beaton doesn’t try to make us get to know or care about them. Agatha can’t do much investigating herself so nothing happens except her exploring the islands, fighting with James, sulking, and eating or drinking. Not even the apparent threat on Agatha’s own life wasn’t engaging enough. I usually get through these books quite quickly but this one seems to have dragged on. With a terrible plot it’s harder to forgive all the other problems but with six hours of nothing happening and horrible characters there isn’t a lot redeeming it except maybe we see more character interactions and advancement on their story but that’s frustrating as well. I’ll be grateful when we return to the simple village life where Beaton’s writing thrives.

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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.

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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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