Something Borrowed, Someone Dead (#24) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 17th September 2013 (print)/03 October 2013 (audio) Goodreads badge
Minotaur Books /Audible
Pages: 304/6 hrs and 19 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Incomer Gloria French is at first welcomed in the Cotswold village of Piddlebury. She seems like a do-gooder par excellence, raising funds for the church and caring for the elderly. But she has a bad habit of borrowing things and not giving them back, so when she is discovered dead, folk in the village don’t mourn her passing too much.

Parish councillor Jerry Tarrant hires Agatha Raisin to track down the murderer. But the village is creepy and secretive and the residents don’t seem to want Agatha to find who the murderer is. Then Agatha’s investigations are hampered by the upset of discovering that her ex, James Lacey, has fallen in love with her young protégé.

The shift between these books that can go from horribly written to one that is actually decent is amazing. Decent for Agatha Raisin that is. There must be something in the water in the Cotswalds that make people go from calm to threatening death upon people at the slightest inconvenience.

The enjoyment of this book comes from the murder plotline and less so of the writing or extra content. Agatha’s obsession with her figure and the judgement towards other people are eye rolling and typical, but the fact Beaton managed an interesting premise for a murder and didn’t drive me up the wall reading it to execute it was something of a miracle.

There’s a lot of character action and conversations to suss out motive and intent, things happen that actually connect to the investigation and the side stories of characters when we get them are woven in a way that they still feel connected to the main story. There are throwaway lines that show time passing, Agatha taking holidays etc, but it keeps returning to interviewing people about the murder. The character interactions are more entertaining than reading long sections of narration which is probably why this was a better story than most.

There’s a couple murders in this one, the original and the second one that usually happens during the investigation of the first, typically after someone proclaims they know who the murderer is and then dies before telling anyone. The whole team gets involved and we see various avenues of investigation which is a change from quick mentions and having them behind the scenes and on other cases, even the non-detective gang help in their own ways.

The solution to having to extend the stories out this time involves having the main story for most of the book and then having a secondary mini plot afterwards to fill in time. The entire last hour was a side story that was what happens after the murderer is caught and it was a strange addition but I guess it’s a change to see what happens to the culprit and not just what new thing Agatha is up to.

There is also an unexpected addition about Toni that is tacked on at the end but given the haphazard nature of these books it’s easier to simply go along with it at this stage. The final pages feel like the start of a new book again as it introduces a whole other storyline but as a weird cliff hanger I guess it’s meant to lure you into the next one but with no real stakes, just pushing your curiosity about what’s going to happen next.

You can purchase Something Borrowed, Someone Dead via the following

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Preserving the Evidence (#2) by Kaz Delaney

Published: 23rd May 2022 Goodreads badge
Tule Publishing
Pages: 322
Format: Paperback
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Baker and amateur sleuth Rosie Hart finds herself embroiled in a brand new mystery in her new hometown of Airlie Falls. There’s a murder, an unidentified body, missing money, a late mayoral election challenge, a strange gathering of socialites at a mansion out of town, and strangers who aren’t who they claim to be. Oh – and an unknown woman who seemed to be being forced into a car against her will on the night of the town meeting. Rosie is sure they’re all connected, but the Sheriff isn’t convinced, and she’s afraid there’ll be more bodies to add to the tally if he doesn’t quickly unmask the murderer. Then all evidence suddenly points to her best friend, local newspaper owner and editor, Midge Moyal as being the murderer. Now Rosie knows she is the one who will have to prove Midge’s innocence.

Convinced the answers are at the mansion of the murdered man, Frederick Clausen, Rosie feels the only way to get them in to go undercover and pretend to be one of those bored socialites. It’s a brief stint and proves, if nothing else, that she’s no actress. But it wasn’t all in vain. Answers are starting to drop into place and suddenly Rosie realizes she’ll be lucky to get out of this one without more than a batch of burned Buried Treasure Cookies.

Note: I was provided with a copy for review.

In book two Rosie has settled into the town quite well and has established her baking prowess to the town’s favour. Her relationship with Jonas is going well and everything is wonderful until another murder hits the town and strange things are happening and the mysteries keep piling up.

This was a slower pace than the previous book, which was fine having established our characters and Rosie in the previous novel we could afford to unfurl this new mystery in a new way. With a few things happening the focus is split and the nature of the accusations allows for a slower pace in uncovering the culprit.

As the mystery hits home and starts to affect beloved characters it’s a fun development that adds intrigue as the reader you try and work out why people are being framed and to what end. Side characters introduced in the previous story feature again, including the Fab Four who are always a delight; and the pros and cons of a small town community is reinforced as the various events play out.

There is a solid recap of the previous book without it feeling forced for those who need a refresher or who picked the books up out of order. Delaney weaves it into the story smoothly so it never feels like it’s been inserted unnaturally into the story as a reminder.

There are multiple mysteries happening side by side – the mystery body, the murder, as well as the woman that Rosie keeps seeing but can never find. I liked the sleuthing Rosie did to uncover it, there is an air of amateur detective work but a lot of it is Rosie working it out for herself, or actively becoming involved to help save her friends. As a result there are a few run-ins with local law enforcement and blundering her way through undercover operations but that is part of this charm. Rosie is never trying to be a detective but she is trying to solve mysteries in her town, especially those affecting her friends.

Delaney has included an excellent collection of misleading information, red herrings, as well as twists and turns to keep you guessing. By the end of the story as you piece all the hints and clues together the ending comes as a satisfactory surprise and one that shows that cosy mysteries can have thrilling moments of danger, excitement, and suspense. I can’t wait to see what awaits Rosie in book three.

You can purchase Preserving the Evidence via the following

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Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body (#21) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 2010 (print)/14 Oct 2010 (audio) Goodreads badge
Constable & Robinson Ltd /Audible
Pages: 199/6 hrs and 15 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★ ★  – 3 Stars

Agatha Raisin has always been ambivalent about holiday cheer, but her cosy little village of Carsely has long prided itself on its Christmas festivities. But this year Mr. John Sunday, a self important officer with the Health and Safety Board, has ruled that the traditional tree on top of the church is a public menace; that lampposts are unsafe for hanging illuminations; that May Dimwoody’s homemade toys are dangerous for children.

Things have reached such a desperate pass that the Carsely Ladies’ Society joins forces with the ladies in the neighbouring village of Odley Cruesis to try to put a stop to Mr. Sunday’s meddling—only to find that someone has literally put a stop to him with a kitchen knife.

Agatha’s detective agency is on the case, but when a man has made as many enemies as John Sunday, it’s hard to know where to start.

We’ve had another Christmas (blink and you’ll miss it) and miraculously Agatha is still in her early fifties. I can’t remember which book it was but there was another one that had two Christmases in it and 21 books into this she is no longer in her early fifties no matter what weird time bubble they’re all living in.

I mentioned last time about things taking a long time, this takes place over the year and the fact people are still able to recall a murder so clearly and be as invested in it is a slight stretch, though I guess small town life people are quite nosey as has been shown through this series. Also over the course of the book quite a few more people end up murdered so that does keep the village interest high.

Agatha is still Agatha, I saw another review describe her has irascible which I absolutely love. It explains a lot about her and fits the myriad of moments where the second she gets inconvenienced or put out she turns to angry outbursts and starts insulting people or threatening to kill them. The stilted conversations reminds you again that Beaton can’t write a believable young adult conversation or stop herself from trying to mould them into the kinds of people she thinks they should be and their awkward dialogue reflects that.

The fact this takes place over a year is interesting because while the other stories weren’t exactly solved overnight, there were often only a few weeks of inaction, on occasion months; but this was a curious choice that made it less of a book about murder and more a snapshot of Carsely over a year that had a few murders in it which we move on from and reference ever now and again.

New characters are introduced and we see Toni trying to make something of her life with newcomer Simon but Agatha, who thinks she knows best, gets involved which was weird and incredible illogical but isn’t beyond what I expect of Agatha or Beaton at this point.

For all the faults in the writing and plot Keith does a superb job once again. Her narration is excellent and while listening to this kind of story tends to highlight the repetition and the jumping around of scenes it does make it more bearable.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body via the following

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A Spoonful of Poison (#19) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 30th September 2008 (print)/01 Feb 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Minotaur Books /Audible
Pages: 288/6 hrs and 20 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Cranky but lovable sleuth Agatha Raisin’s detective agency has become so successful that she wants nothing more than to take quality time for rest and relaxation. But as soon as she begins closing the agency on weekends, she remembers that when she has plenty of quality time, she doesn’t know what to do with it. So it doesn’t take much for the vicar of a nearby village to persuade her to help publicize the church fete—especially when the fair’s organizer, George Selby, turns out to be a gorgeous widower.

Agatha brings out the crowds for the fete, all right, but there’s more going on than innocent village fun. Several of the offerings in the jam-tasting booth turn out to be poisoned, and the festive family event becomes the scene of two murders.

Along with her young and (much to her dismay) pretty sidekick, Toni, Agatha must uncover the truth behind the jam tampering, keep the church funds safe from theft, and expose the nasty secrets lurking in the village—all while falling for handsome George, who may have secrets of his own.

At book 19 it’s just passed the halfway mark in this series and this is indeed a middle book because it is quite forgettable. Even amongst the cookie cutter style of these stories and repetition this one hasn’t stuck in my head very well.

Away from Carsley we have a lot of new characters to play with, each getting the Agatha treatment but there was some variety in their characters. Agatha’s instant love and affection for the new man George goes over the same thing we’ve seen before, and even with new characters to get to know there isn’t anything different. There is extra story away from the main murder, padding details and random extra scenes but it was enjoyable enough. I understand that these are meant to work as standalones, you can pick them up wherever and not really need to know what was going on, but the amount of repetition those of us who do read the entire series has to put up with is frustrating.

The characters are unique and flawed which is entertaining but Beaton needs to learn to stop bringing out the same flaws each time, we do get another miniscule revelation of Agatha’s life but it’s not nearly enough given the amount of times we’ve been told about her bear like eyes, her ailments, and her body issues. What was interesting was that newcomer Toni gets additional focus as we see her pushed along by Agatha to branch out on her own, plus a new village of new faces to get to know and suspect, but what is a Raisin book without Agatha bringing up the rear with the usual complaints, brashness, and obsession of love and loneliness.

It also wouldn’t be an Agatha book without James making an appearance as we’re lured into the next book with his surprise engagement. Anytime James is mentioned it brings the tone down of these books and why Beaton keeps dragging him back into storylines where it doesn’t make sense is beyond me. Hopefully this time she can settle his storyline and move on.

You can purchase A Spoonful of Poison via the following

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You Were Made For Me by Jenna Guilllaume

Published: 11th August 11th 2020 Goodreads badge
Pan Macmillan Australia
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

The day I created a boy started out like any other.

Katie didn’t mean to create a boy. A boy like a long-lost Hemsworth brother: six-foot tall with floppy hair and eyes like the sky on a clear summer’s day; whose lips taste like cookie-dough and whose skin smells like springtime.

A boy who is completely devoted to Katie.

He was meant to be perfect.

But he was never meant to exist.

I was expecting a lot from this after having fallen in love Guillaume’s other book What I Like About Me and while it isn’t as fabulous as that, it does have heart and a fun story to enjoy. It was an interesting concept and one I think Guillaume does well making it light hearted with a little bit of strangeness, not to mention some humour, teen relationships as well as some more serious issues too. The characters are diverse and unique in their voices and personalities; Guillaume captures the teen voice and the impulsivity, the hormones and the heightened emotions come across with a simple but solid storyline.

I think I quite liked the lack of explanation about everything that happens. The unexplained magical realism was interesting because it’s so easily accepted that a person has been created and so much time and energy is spent containing him that there’s no need to find any real answers about how. Not that things are left completely in the dark, naturally the characters discuss where and how this could even be possible, but it isn’t an issue when no solid answers come up.

I liked the format of having two key characters chatting in the story as if they were writing it out in front of each other and including their conversations as well as the recount. It gives the story a great conversational feel and gives us easy access to Katie’s thoughts and feelings as she writes out what happened. The use of formatting is also played with to help distinguish between voices and they are nice breaks around the more traditional format of the rest of the book.

There are a few comments in other reviews about the girls sounding young and juvenile but while I can see this perspective, it’s also refreshing not to have them be too grown up, too mature or adult like; they are young girls, they are best friends doing weird, fun things together and being complete dags about it. It’s great. Yes they are growing up and exploring their feelings and relationships but that doesn’t thrust them into completely mature minds automatically.

Overall this is a nice light hearted teen romance that has pining and unrequitedness, plus all the key players in a teen drama but with a lovely Australian feel. It isn’t too deep either, despite the heavy topic of cancer and parental death which Guillaume navigates around wonderfully.

You can purchase You Were Made For Me via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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