Agatha Raisin and the Case of the Curious Curate (#13) by M. C. Beaton

Published: March 2003 (print)/12 March 2009 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books/Audible
Pages: 212/6 hrs and 34 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★  ★ – 3 Stars

Agatha Raisin has just about had it – James has abandoned her, the new neighbour has made an unseemly proposition, and the new curate seems to be taking a more than normal interest in her. Now he is dead.

This was a pretty forgettable book despite it having a few decent components. Beaton keeps us in Carsely but instead of the usual characters like Charles, Roy and the dreaded James we get to discover more of the villagers and the broader community while keeping familiar faces in Bill Wong and Mrs Bloxby.

Agatha is a mixed bag here, she has sworn off men, still has complicated emotions and pining towards James, and thankfully hasn’t fallen head over heels with new neighbour John and started imaging a life together. Her openness about her investigation is nice, she openly tells people she isn’t officially anybody and yet still tries her luck at asking people questions. This is all in an effort to help clear her friend’s husband’s name so credit to her for trying to help, it’s one of the few times her input is justified and isn’t about clearing her own name.

Her own life once again becomes in danger but while it’s predictable, it’s a nice consequence of Agatha running around butting in trying to solve crimes she has no real business solving. Her ability to stumble into revelations is hardly a good justification but Bill and Wilkes put no real effort into stopping her so they certainly can’t complain.

The reveal is relatively clever, the twist and surprises are interesting but Beaton still needs to work out where she is taking these characters because every moment of growth and positive change we see it is either contradicted or backpedalled soon after. The exploration of side characters was a nice change too, fleshing them out to become more than one dimensional. Bill’s love quest continues and we see more of John’s character than we have previously. Agatha learns some more about herself which was some good growth and I liked her decision to help out in the community with her PR skills. It’s these parts of Agatha I enjoy seeing – her input into to community and trying to be a good person for good causes instead of insulting everyone and being brash and abusive.

I don’t know whether it was because the story was lacking or because I had been reading these back to back but this isn’t the most memorable book. It’s not quite formulaic but not revolutionary either. So many of Beaton’s books are memorable for the wrong reasons though so being forgettable is probably the best thing for this one.

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Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam (#10) by MC Beaton

Published: 15th April 2001 (print)/26 July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Paperbacks/Audible
Pages: 197/5 hrs and 56 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

When a fortune teller from a previous case informs Agatha Raisin that her destiny–and true love–lies in Norfolk, she promptly rents a cottage in the quaint village of Fryfam. No sooner does she arrive than strange things start happening. Random objects go missing from people’s homes, and odd little lights are seen dancing in the villagers’ gardens and yards. Stories soon begin circulating about the presence of fairies.

But when a prominent village resident is found murdered, and some suspicion falls on her and her friend Sir Charles Fraith, Agatha decides she’s had enough of this fairy nonsense and steps up her sleuthing for a human killer.

The prickly yet endearing Agatha will have fans dangling in suspense: Will she catch her crook–and a husband?

This is the story about Agatha and her desperate need for love and having someone in her life. Her own insecurities means she drops everything at the words of a fortune teller to find love in Norfolk. Thankfully the entire book isn’t about her finding love – there is a curious mystery going on and it was a fun mix of local lore and the entire village playing tricks on the newcomer.

The mysteries go from small and seemingly innocent to substantial and murderous. Of course as Agatha and Charles get embroiled in the accusations and suspicions but with their banter and comradery they make a good pair to start clearing their names and finding the truth. This is where Agatha takes off her lovesick hat and gets down to sleuthing. Even in a different village it was fun to get to know a new cast of characters, especially as they interacted with Agatha and the mystery at hand.

The mixture of real murder and magical fairies made for an interesting read and having Agatha alone by herself for a time gave us a chance to see her by herself and not performing for others. Even when she meets the villagers their interactions aren’t instantly accepting and it’s great to see this play out.

Then comes the downfall.

With a plot twist that comes from absolutely nowhere we also return once again to the story of Agatha and Why She Still Wants to be with James Lacey Because Every Single Person Thinks He Is a Terrible Human Being. I was so proud of her initially, her growth around him was making her mature and she had some grace and dignity back but Beaton tosses that aside in an instant for a relationship she herself isn’t even trying to orchestrate realistically.

I couldn’t quite see this relationship before they got together, I certainly can’t see it now, especially when Agatha appeared to be getting over her infatuation and the drama of the last time they tried this. James is cold and neglectful, he is dismissive and it frustrates me to no end because we see Agatha have a nice fun time with people like Charles Fraith, and how she is around other people but her life still will snap back to revolving around James in an instant and as much as she annoys me, she does actually deserve better. There is no cute “will they/won’t they” there is nothing riding on whether this might suddenly turn – Beaton makes it obvious they are a bad match so I don’t know why we must put up with this.

It goes beyond story because at some point you are being disrespectful of readers who can see this is unrealistic and trying to push the same failed relationship instead of letting characters move and grow into new relationships for the sake of main characters is insulting.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam via the following

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Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden (#9) by M. C. Beaton

Published: June 15th 2000 (print)/ 1st July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 196/5 hrs and 58 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

There is nothing more depressing for a middle-aged lovelorn woman with bald patches on her head than to find herself in an English seaside resort out of season. Agatha Raisin, her hair falling out after a run-in with a hairdresser-cum-murderess from a previous investigation, travels to an old-fashioned hotel in order to repair the damage away from the neighbours in her all-too-cosy Cotswolds village. Unhappy about the slow results and prompted by the elderly residents of the resort, she consults the local witch for help. Agatha purchases a hair tonic (and a love potion, just in case!) and is soon sprouting hairs and capturing the fancy of the village police inspector. But the quiet town is stunned by the murder of the witch. Which one of the greying guests is capable of such a brutal crime? The brassy yet endearing Agatha won’t stop until she finds the culprit–and, of course, a little love, too.

This was a great story and I loved how Beaton plays with the events of the previous book, Agatha’s vanity and pride, as well as allowing readers to escape Carsley and the usual characters for a bit. Ironically, being away from Carsley has resulted in a decent story. I know in the Terrible Tourist being away from Carsley was its downfall, but this one works. The dynamics between characters is better, and having Agatha stop going on about James quite so much is a saviour. I enjoyed getting to know the new characters and seeing Agatha thrive on her own— she seems more sensible and less nosy than before. Honestly I wanted her to stay there and be free of James, she seemed a lot more contented.

Being away from home means when a murder occurs, as one always seems to do, Agatha is stuck there as a possible suspect until it’s solved. Beaton uses motives like this well because instead of Agatha just butting in, her incentive is to solve the murder so she can get home, meaning it makes slightly more sense.

Because Agatha is stuck we are introduced to the other residents of the resort with more detail. Aside from their peculiarities there is a nice relationship between her and Jimmy that could develop if we’d spent longer than a fortnight with them and rushed the relationship. This could have been a nice new direction for Agatha but Beaton rushes through and instead of being a sweet romance it ends up feeling sad and depressing because it’s so easy to see what could have been if Beaton had written it better.

There is a sweet storyline around Agatha and a cat and with the disaster of her hair as a focus there were a lot of smaller moments to engage with rather just a blanket overall plot. The small details filled the story a lot better and made it memorable and weaving each character organically into Agatha’s storyline was a great way to get to know everyone better.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden via the following

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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.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death via the following

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