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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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Audible

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

The Bad Seed (#1) by Jory John

Published: 29th August 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harper Collins
Illustrator: Pete Oswald
Pages: 34
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

This is a book about a bad seed. A baaaaaaaaaad seed. How bad? Do you really want to know?

He has a bad temper, bad manners, and a bad attitude. He’s been bad since he can remember! This seed cuts in line every time, stares at everybody and never listens. But what happens when one mischievous little seed changes his mind about himself, and decides that he wants to be—happy?

With Jory John’s charming and endearing text and bold expressive illustrations by Pete Oswald, here is The Bad Seed: a funny yet touching tale that reminds us of the remarkably transformative power of will, acceptance, and just being you. Perfect for readers young and old, The Bad Seed proves that positive change is possible for each and every one of us.

What I liked about the Bad Seed is we’re shown his little life story and we understand how he came to be bad. His misfortune and harsh life meant he has been altered from the happy seed he once was. I think this was incredibly clever of John because it shows no one is born bad, and even though they can do bad things, deep down there may be a reason.

John shows us that being bad doesn’t have to be forever, and that it’s ok to change your mind. I liked there wasn’t a specific event or outside influence that impacted on Bad Seed and his decision, it’s clever to make it his own choice to improve himself.

The story is funny and clever, I liked the different moments we got to see with the Bad Seed and how he lives his life. The sentences are short and there are not a lot of words on the page but each line is reflected in an illustration. Oswald has done a great job with the depiction of the character and reflecting the story around him. I loved the changes of colours and the look at the tiny world Bad Seed lives in. Also, the interactions he has with other characters show off a diverse and curious world of other food.

I am fascinated by the sentient foods in this story because there is a clear and present danger of being eaten and yet the personified foods go about their lives normally. This works fine if you have a society of sentient food, but John has shown there are humans in their world who will eat them which raises a few questions.

You can purchase The Bad Seed via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Queen Celine by Matt Shanks

Published: 1st February 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Walker Books Australia
Illustrator: Matt Shanks
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Celine Beaufort is queen of what she is quite certain is the most beautiful rock pool in the world. It’s perfect. And to make sure nothing ever changes, she decides to build a wall around it. Unfortunately, that turns out to be a royal mistake. As self-proclaimed ruler, it’s up to Celine to right her wrong and restore her rock pool to its former glory, this time with everyone welcome. 

This is a cute book and it has a nice message but it doesn’t really grab you. I didn’t entirely dislike it though, I liked the contrast between every day Celine and at the beach Celine, it highlights how this is her time to shine and become the queen she wants to be. It’s also a good story that shows Celine never intentionally means to cause any of problems that arise. It’s innocent enough and sweet enough that Celine never is shown as malicious or controlling, just a little too enthusiastic and naïve.

But while the story is a tad lacklustre, the illustrations on the other hand are the absolute best. I think I had more fun studying the cute and clever illustrations than I did reading the book. The pictures are adorable and each page is filled with a lot to look at and study. I loved the art style and I loved the tiny details that made up this beach community. Small details like little sea creatures with fun expressions are so gosh darn adorable that I can forgive the underwhelming story that goes with it.

While the story had a nice message about sharing and nature, and Shanks does do a good job in showing us all of that without actually saying it, it doesn’t quite hit the spot.

You can purchase Queen Celine via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust

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