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 Day the Floods Came (#12) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 19th October 2003 (print)/1st July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books/Audible
Pages: 213/6 hrs and 18 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★ – 2 Stars

One of the things I noticed about this book was it was longer than the others. This isn’t a quick and simple story like the majority of Beaton’s previous books were where we’re in, there’s a murder, we sleuth and deduct and solve it before wrapping it up rather suddenly. Of late a lot of them have been ending with addition chapters or epilogues that give an insight into the next book, a long extra teaser to entice us in I suppose, but the books still followed the same formula as before. This one however is drawn out and the story really gets into the character’s lives which is great in the absent of a strong plot.

The reoccurring sweeping statements about giving up on men are brought out once more as are the ongoing quest to stay young and obsession with looks. We’re saved from the James aspect with his sudden removal from Agatha’s life and my personal favourite Charles Fraith also vanishes for a while but there is a new neighbour in the revolving door that is the cottage next door and Agatha joins forces with him on her new investigation. Thankfully there is a lot less of the obsession Agatha had over James with John – I was surprised she doesn’t initially fall at his feet like she usually does but I loved that we saw some actual growth in Agatha after her recent heartbreak.

With this story delving deep into the characters, something we don’t usually get, we learn a lot about John, get more about Mrs Bloxby and her husband, Roy makes an appearance and we even get more insight into Agatha as Beaton shows us some more of her vulnerabilities and the true affect her failed marriage had on her.

With a local murder to focus her attention Agatha stumbles about in her attempt to solve it. The use of disguises and wigs makes it’s comical but in a way it helps to be disguised if you’re going to intrude on people and start questioning them. At her core Agatha is essentially incredibly nosey and butts in, this is the method of her investigations also.

The plot is weak but with the focus on the characters it’s easy to ignore that. It was an ok read, nothing much too it and a lot of themes were just rehashed from past books but it progresses Agatha’s story along so that’s something.

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Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell (#11) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 1st January 2003 (print)/1st July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Robinson Publishing/Audible
Pages: 256/7 hrs and 17 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★ – 2 Stars

Recently married to James Lacey, the witty and fractious Agatha Raisin quickly finds that marriage, and love, are not all they are cracked up to be. Rather than basking in marital bliss, the newlyweds are living in separate cottages and accusing each other of infidelity. After a particularly raucous fight in the local pub, James suddenly vanishes-a bloodstain the only clue to his fate-and Agatha is the prime suspect.

Determined to clear her name and find her husband, Agatha begins her investigation. But her sleuthing is thwarted when James’s suspected mistress, Melissa, is found murdered. Joined by her old friend Sir Charles, Agatha digs into Melissa’s past and uncovers two ex-husbands, an angry sister, and dubious relations with bikers. Are Melissa’s death and James’s disappearance connected? Will Agatha reunite with her husband or will she find herself alone once again?

I am going to keep this short because I have nothing of substance to say about this book other than it makes me so angry that it was ever published. The plot is weak, the writing is repetitive and normally this makes it endearing because age obsessed Agatha tries anything she can get her hands on the stop her aging, but this time I couldn’t get into the swing of it because the mess Beaton has left us with gets the majority of my focus.

The Agatha/James relationship is toxic and there is no dancing around it anymore. It isn’t just the obvious issues from before they got together, now it’s a marriage of accusation and bitterness. They fight and Agatha is belittled by James, her inner monologue shows she knows how James treats her and you wish she’d be whisked away by a friend far from him. The red flags that came up before this marriage now line the garden as decoration and yet still we have to read about this relationship.

The fact that James was in a relationship with Melissa in the previous book, then suddenly proposes to Agatha only to go back to having Melissa as his mistress is something I cannot even fathom. I just need to know what Beaton intended by writing it this way. Is this how she thinks relationships work? That it’s a good story for readers? There are a thousand other ways Beaton would have written this. It could have easily been a case of where both characters were infatuated, got together but it didn’t work and they realised they were better as friends than lovers. It didn’t have to be this toxic or infuriating or so poorly handled and I honestly wished James death for most of this book.

Things we can always rely on though is Beaton’s inability to come up with any more creative descriptions as we’re stuck with Agatha’s bear like eyes once more and her perpetual “early fifties” age. I hope now that the James thing is tried and tested we can move on towards Charles as a possible love interest. He is brutally honest and flighty but he does treat Agatha as a friend and seems to respect her. It’s interesting how the amoral character of the series ends up being the better one of all of them.

In summary: James is abusive and Agatha is a fool. But there is a fun cosy mystery to solve around it so it’s fine?

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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.

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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.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham via the following

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