There Goes the Bride (#20) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 23rd September 2009 (print)/01 July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books /Audible
Pages: 277/6 hrs and 18 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Agatha’s former husband James is engaged to be married to a beautiful, young woman and Agatha has been kindly invited to the wedding. To take her mind off this, Agatha decides she has fallen for Sylvan, a Frenchman she met at James’ engagement party. To distract her still further she decides upon a holiday and flies to Istanbul, where unfortunately she bumps into James and his fianc e not once but twice – convincing him she is stalking them.

So when the bride is murdered on her wedding day, naturally Agatha is Suspect Number One – but then matters are turned on their head when the dead bride’s mother engages Agatha to take on the case of her murdered daughter! And very soon Agatha’s own life is in danger while she tries to solve the mystery of the corpse bride while fighting off (halfheartedly) the advances of a very attractive and determined Frenchman!

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this because even I can’t complain about the same things over and over again with this series. This plot was a mess. So many things happened, one after the other, sometimes on top of each other and you could barely adjust that one things had happened before it changed again.

The James/Agatha/new wife situation was a convoluted as you’d expect. Agatha is obsessing over James, falling in love with someone else, and trying to clear her name. Plus, no one seems to like anybody despite being in a relationship with them.

James is as horrible as ever, his self-centred misogynistic ways rear their head. Why Beaton is trying to bring back James only to have him leave time and time again is a mystery. It’s rehashing the same storylines of Agatha being in love, him being horrible, then leaving, her recovering only to have it cycle through again.

Beaton does reveal to us more about Agatha which gives us a bit of history on her life, and how she came to be how she is. There is a different side of Agatha that comes out every now and again, you see it sometimes when she is around Toni, around Charles. The vulnerable person who has a rough upbringing who is insecure and hurt, but that is often thrown against a shallow, abusive, selfish appearance that does make you less sympathetic to her plight.

In terms of audio Keith does a great job once again. Her narration is consistent and she does bring Agatha’s brashness to life, as well as the various other characters and their unique idiosyncrasies. With all the usual players involved we see regular characters in and out of the Cotswolds environment and the interactions with each other are always entertaining, even with the uninspiring writing.

The murder itself had intrigue, international crime and multiple bodies with uncertain connections but it also felt scattered. One saving grace is that sometimes cases take time. They span over weeks and months, there’s weeks where Agatha deals with other business with her agency – granted it’s summed up in one line as the same thing every time of finding lost pets and missing teenagers – but rarely is anything solved instantly which adds some reality, especially given the fewer resources. It also helps that characters are all too eager to give any information or access needed. The weak excuses and subterfuge always work, and even when found out people are still happy to oblige. It keeps the story rolling I suppose getting the answers you need without any real barriers.

The extra padding Beaton is adding to the stories recently never seems to fit. They are extra moments added in as weird side plots or scenes, and there’s multiple times you think the story is ending when it keeps going. By the time you get to the end of the book anything that happened at the beginning has no relevance. The murders have been solved, Agatha’s had multiple dates, done some local village good service, the agency has gone through an upheaval and she’s had a mini holiday. All of which sounds like it takes a lot of time but most of it is over in a chapter or less and the next random thing begins. Agatha and Charles had a moment together which I do always like because they are good together but on top of this weird mess of a book it didn’t really have an impact.

You can purchase There Goes the Bride via the following

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Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye (#18) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 2nd October 2007 (print)/02 Dec 2011 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books /Audible
Pages: 234/6 hrs and 30 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Agatha Raisin is bored. Her detective agency in the Cotswolds is thriving, but she’ll scream if she has to deal with another missing cat or dog. Only two things seem to offer potential excitement: the upcoming Christmas festivities and her ex, James Lacey. This year she is sure that if she invites James to a really splendid, old-fashioned Christmas dinner, their love will rekindle like a warm Yule log.

When a wealthy widow hires Agatha because she’s convinced a member of her family is trying to kill her, Agatha is intrigued—especially when the widow drops dead after high tea at the manor house. Who in this rather sterile house, complete with fake family portraits, could have hated the old lady enough to poison her?

Agatha sets out to find the murderer, all the while managing a pretty, teenage trainee who makes her feel old and planning for a picture-perfect Christmas, with James, all the trimmings, and perhaps even snow.

It’s taken eighteen books before we get a proper backstory on Agatha and the story so far. Up until now there’s been little information on Agatha’s past and any recap on previous events has been minor.

The basic summary of this book is that Agatha is once again a horrible person in pretty much every situation she finds herself. She is racist, ageist, judgemental, and insulting in basically every description.

Agatha’s own issues about her age come through once more with Toni joining the team as she is considerably younger and why wouldn’t have the perpetual early 50s Agatha compare herself to a teenager in looks? Christmas doesn’t really come into play for much of the novel so it’s hardly a Christmas murder, but there is a festive mood if you count a Christmas dinner and Agatha pining once more for James.

Despite the bit of backstory provided there wasn’t much going on to capture any interest. The introduction of Toni provided some fresh characters and a new plotline to follow, though stereotypical at times seeing Agatha try and help the poor girl has its moments as the brash and horrible Agatha tries to show compassion and support to someone other than herself. The writing and descriptions are a bit turn off, and Agatha’s complaints are repetitive and now quite ludicrous as she bemoans the silliest things.

It has a murder in it that kept you thinking about so that’s something at least and the usual side characters bring some familiarity and relief even if they aren’t always the most in-depth people.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye via the following

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Agatha Raisin and Love, Lies, and Liquor (#17) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 1st September 2006 (print)/1 July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Paperbacks /Audible
Pages: 231/6 hrs and 14 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★ – 1 Stars

Cotswold detective Agatha Raisin lies to herself, hoping skimpy lingerie will suit her ex’s surprise holiday. He lies to himself, remembering childhood heyday of Snoth-on-Sea as sunny, now a wreck in a cold windy storm. Aggie threatens obnoxious guest Geraldine, later found strangled in Aggie’s lost scarf. Aggie can try drink, but needs all her friends when bodies pile up.

If I thought about it, every book with James Lacey is terrible, and Agatha is a better person when he isn’t around. Less than 1/5th of the way through I was already back to hating James and hating Agatha for who she becomes when she’s around him. I had such hopes for her after the last book, she was sensible, looking for companionship but not going after every neighbour that moved in with lust. She’d stopped going on about James and put herself in her work and her friends again. Now this is all undone.

Whilst Agatha is giving James another chance she gets caught up in another murder where she is a suspect. These can be hit or miss but because Agatha is stuck with the insufferable James it ruins any chance of enjoying anything else. You can see Agatha trying to break free from James but her desire to give him another chance is a complete disappointment.

All the regular characters make an appearance to try and help Agatha, you can see they are growing and evolving so that’s a benefit since Agatha isn’t allowed to.

Prejudices are ongoing with Agatha surprised that Harry, who dresses in punk clothing and has a shaven head, is considerate, while Patrick, who wears “conventional dress” could be considered attractive. It’s just criticisms and judgemental observations after the other. And the fact Beaton has Harry suddenly say they look foolish and wish they’d never gotten the piercings is so bizarre to me. Beaton is trying to bland down the world one book at time, just as she was adding some interesting characters.

These books were published in 1990s and 2000s, in that time society changes, language changes, and references change which I understand, you can pick that up from the way she writes her earlier books to these ones, but this one was published in 2006, there’s no excuse for this kind of writing.

There are endearing moments, but then there are also times you hate the main characters because Agatha and James will drive you up the wall. What is a quirk or personality trait for some characters, the fact these two change so much is ridiculous. Actually, James stays the same, but it changes from being a problem to not clearly on how Beaton feels on a particular book.

I truly don’t know what to expect with this series anymore. The vast differences in ratings so far is bizarre. In the beginning they were gradually getting better, characters were evolving as we got to know them and while the stories weren’t perfect they were decent enough. Now they have swung so wildly it’s hard to know what the next one will bring and characters flip suddenly between stories you don’t know what’s going to happen.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance via the following

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Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon (#16) by M. C. Beaton

Published: June 29th 2006 (print)/26 July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Paperbacks /Audible
Pages: 284/6 hrs
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Agatha Raisin, recent divorcée, hates adultery cases and pompous Robert Smedley, but needs work. Unfortunately Mabel appears the perfect young wife, a pretty church volunteer. Agatha stumbles across dead missing teen Jessica, and investigates free for publicity. When Smedley dies from poison, Mabel hires Agatha, who brings in old friends, new hires, and finds the killers.

Agatha’s detective agency is still going strong, however things like missing cats, dogs, and teenagers get swept aside with multiple murders this time round. Yet despite this, Beaton still finds time to pad out the story with side plots.

The murders are interesting enough, and the reveal was satisfying which is what you want from a good mystery, logical and with a point. There is certainly a lot happening to focus on and a lot of characters to enjoy away from the murders themselves too which adds some more variety.

The story has moved on from the will they/won’t they between Agatha and James that took up so much time in earlier books, and thankfully has moved even further on from Agatha still lamenting about him. Old favourites remain like Agatha groaning about her perpetual early fifties and obsesses about men and love so nothing drastic has changed. I am glad though Beaton is mixing up the characters and storylines a little more.

The new characters introduced fit well into the story, not just living in the village and moving out at the conclusion for the convenience of the plot as the formula has been for a few books. The rotation of villagers leaving through murder, scandal or random chance meant people were coming and going fairly frequently it was hardly worth caring about them.

New regulars of the series are the employees of the detective agency. I liked the mixture of ages and motivations Beaton has chosen for these people; Harry is young and a punk looking for something to fill his gap year, Patrick is a retired police officer which is handy for connections and actual skill and training, and Phil is retired and looking for something to keep him busy and conveniently takes a decent photograph. It’s a mix that works and while they don’t all have complete depth or intricacies, they are enough to be decent characters. Beaton’s certainly presented us with a lot less before.

Charles is back which is always fun, and the regular characters play their formulaic roles. Again there are a lot snide comments and big opinions stated in the story that don’t feel like they fit within the story. It’s a hard line to decide if the views expressed and thought by the characters are their own quirks or Beaton’s own opinions about “these days” and “nowadays”. The judgement, mild offence, and criticism of everyone and anything comes across as mini tirades but it’s such a strange thing because it could be Agatha lamenting, or it is Beaton’s own criticisms about the changes in the world that she is projecting. It is consistent enough however that at least it is predictable even if it feels out of place.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon via the following

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History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Published: 17th January 2017 (print)/17th January 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster/Recorded Books
Pages: 294/9 hrs and 35 mins
Narrator: Tom Picasso
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   – 1 Star

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

When I realised Silvera had another book out I picked it up instantly because I adored They Both Die at the End, but it didn’t take me long to realise that this book and that book are vastly different in terms of enjoyment.

I kinda see the point. Theo is already gone, and we flash back and forward to how the memories Griffin has are all that’s left versus how he is living his life now. But on the flip side – it’s boring. Even listening to this at 2x speed did not help me get through this faster. Every time I thought I was close to finishing I still has ages to go.

It was definitely a combination of a few things. I didn’t have any connection to these characters, they weren’t one dimensional exactly but at the same time there isn’t any depth or emotion to them that I could find substance in.

There’s emotion of course, we get descriptions and experiences of their time together and how Griffin feels after Theo is gone but it only ever felt like words. The story takes place so close after his death yet I kept thinking it was months afterwards the way everyone behaves and how hollow the words felt.

There’s a little bit of “mystery”. Theo’s death is a slow reveal and we find out gradually what happened, all the different layers and circumstances, but at the same time it meant nothing. Even the eventual reasoning didn’t make sense and at times the circumstances and the behaviour between Wade, Griffin and Jackson felt unnatural and clunky.

Good points: Silvera portrays compulsions well with Griffin’s behaviour about counting and routines. His OCD is not a focusing factor, but it isn’t treated as a background feature either. It butts into scenes, affects interactions, and has flare ups based on experiences and events but being OCD isn’t the focus of Griffin’s story which was nice. It wasn’t about him having OCD and Silvera keeps the balance of it being a part of Griffin and not the point of the story well.

I cannot understand how someone who wrote They Both Die at the End, a beautiful, philosophical, amazing book also wrote this. I know this came first and writing evolves, but they both came out in the same year and the shift from this to that is drastic. I’m now wary with his other books because knowing it could go either way I’m going to have to do a little bit more research than picking up a book based on author alone.

You can purchase History is All You Left Me via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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