A LIFE’S WORK: MC Beaton
Our reviewers take a look over the extensive backlist of the creator of Cotswolds-based amateur sleuth Agatha Raisin.
All titles are published by Robinson in paperback and e-book.
AGATHA RAISIN: AS THE PIG TURNS
There’s something about these books that makes me laugh at the antics Agatha and her cronies get involved in.
As the Pig Turns concerns her most gruesome case yet when a pig roast at a nearby village turns into a very macabre occasion. The usual cast of characters appears and the story moves along at a cracking pace. Easy reading at its best.
Thrilling and comic by turn, there are a couple of surprises and I certainly didn’t guess the eventual outcome. If you want something that isn’t too taxing to while away a couple of hours and you enjoy a good mystery, this book could be for you.
Reading an Agatha Raisin is like sitting down with your cup of Hot Chocolate watching your favourite soap opera on television. There is a familiarity about Agatha Raisin and by following a successful format this story took us through murder and mayhem in Winter Parva, a typical Cotswold village.
The story unfolded when Agatha attends the celebratory hog roast where she realises that its not a pig roasting, but a mans torso, who turns out to me that of Gary Beech, a much disliked jobs worth local Police Cunstable. Despite Agatha knowing that she should leave the investigations to the police, she just can not help herself, and she becomes involved. This leads on to Agatha and her staff being threatened, a second murder, and of course the regular caste members re-appear, such as James, Agatha’s short time ex-husband.
Like all previous books in this series Agatha’s brash, nosy interfering mannerism’s witness another murder, The police read Agatha the riot act warning her to stay out of it, but ultimately of course she cracks the case.
There is a little bit of Agatha in all of us, waiting to say what is on our mind but unlike Agatha, some of us bite our lips where she never does which makes us all like her.
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE BUSY BODY
Agatha Raisin in her 21st adventure is still as rude and cheerless as ever and I just love her!
The villagers’ dislike for the local Health and Safety officer, John Sunday has led to Christmas being ruined for many, as the tree cannot festoon the top of the church tower. Whilst discussing the way forward at a local meeting, a scream is heard and it appears that Mr Sunday has ruined, another event – by being murdered.
Agatha, a reluctant attendee at the meeting, suddenly becomes involved in catching the perpetrator but with a man so hated where do you start looking. When the prime suspect enlists Agatha’s help in solving the crime, the story picks up pace, and twists along the Cotswold lanes until the perpetrator is discovered.
A great personal read but perhaps not suitable for a book-group discussion.
DID YOU KNOW?
When writing Regency Romances Marion wrote six books a year. Today she writes one Agatha Raisin title and one Hamish Macbeth title a year.
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE CURIOUS CURATE
I found this book hard to get into but thoroughly enjoyed it by the end! As it was my first foray into Agatha Raisin country, it took a little while to get used to the unusual mix of the old-fashioned detective style à la Agatha Christie – with a nosy female rooting out gossip – and the present-day setting. It was refreshing to read a crime novel that didn’t contain gruesome imagery or bad language, but instead concentrated on building up the characters slowly and with humour. The ending was a bit neat, but still a surprise. Altogether an easy, gentle read and very entertaining. I will enjoy discovering this engaging detective from the beginning of the series.
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE DAY THE FLOODS CAME
The River Avon bursts its bank and Agatha witnesses a woman’s body floating by wearing a wedding dress and holding a bouquet of flowers. Agatha decides to look into her death and starts asking questions around town as to who would want Kylie dead.
The language is easy to follow and understand and the story moves forward at a fast pace to keep the reader interested. An addictive crime series and one that I love; it is well-suited for a rainy day, the perfect pastime to escape the real world for the make-believe.
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE HAUNTED HOUSE
A very easy fun read, full of quips and puns, and using simple language. One to be enjoyed by both sexes and all ages from 12 years upwards; though perhaps it was easier for me to identify with, being of a similar age to the lovely Mrs Raisin. MC Beaton has a real talent for writing in a way that makes it impossible to dislike the key characters. Their foibles are highlighted in an endearing way which makes them human and accessible. There is sufficient character description to enable you to get a feeling of connection witht hem, without needing to have all their physical attributes described in detail. A tightly woven and well-considered plot with an interesting and somewhat unexpected ending.
AGATHA RAISIN: KISSING CHRISTMAS GOODBYE
Agatha Raisin is a detective, a very scatty one at that, and this brings out a special charm as you know she is not perfect which makes her seem more lifelike. In this book she not only solves a murder but she is also trying to plan Christmas while looking after her new employee, Toni.
The book is set in a small village and I like the way that the small-village closeness is also written into the book as Agatha tries to solve the mystery. All in all a wonderful book and a brilliant addition to the series which I feel shapes modern mystery novels.
DID YOU KNOW?
Her favourite book is The Light of Day by Eric Ambler a comic thriller set partly in Istanbul (Marion’s favourite place).
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE PERFECT PARAGON
The story opens with Agatha being asked by a husband to investigate his wife, Mabel Smedley, whom he suspects of having an affair. Upon investigation, Mrs Smedley seems to be a ‘perfect paragon’ and then her husband is murdered...
A number of characters who have appeared regularly in previous novels reappear in this book and this familiarity adds to the charm. There are lots of twists and turns, another murder, some very poignant moments and lots of humour! Any violence is well described without being gratuitous.
If you have ever enjoyed an Agatha Christie book, Ngaio Marsh or Dorothy L Sayers you should definitely try these.
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE POTTED GARDENER
In this, the 3rd Agatha Raisin murder mystery, we meet a rather more sympathetic Agatha. For the most part, she is still the same brash, middle-aged, retired PR executive, but we begin to see the insecurities that lie beneath the hard surface. Her competitive spirit leads her to join the Horticultural Society and enter the garden competition, though her gardening skills leave much to be desired and her efforts to succeed are very amusing. Her relationships with her fellow villagers, her neighbour James Lacey, and her rival for his affections Mary Fortune are skilfully developed as the garden competition draws ever closer. Agatha finally comes into her own when a series of disasters strikes various competition entries. This is an amusing and well-written book. Agatha’s character and her relationships with others are well portrayed and the unravelling of the mystery was very convincing, although I found the murderer’s motivation rather far-fetched.
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE WELL SPRING OF DEATH
This was a well-crafted tale with no untidy threads left at the end, which showed that MC Beaton has this detective fiction stuff down to a T. That’s not to say that the story was at all obvious, there were plenty of twists and turns along the way, and there were lots of hilarious moments between Agatha and the snobby villagers to keep me entertained! I really liked the character of Agatha Raisin herself as she is by no means perfect; she can be catty and makes umpteen silly mistakes with men but is also smart, funny and loveable too.
I would pick up another of these books if I was in the mood for something light, fun and well written.
I was pleasantly surprised by this story, despite the uninspiring cover.
The writer gives us good descriptions of the characters. Agatha is a feisty woman still lusting after her ex however , whilst waiting for that relationship to re-ignite, she’s not one to turn down an offer of dinner leading to a night in her cosy cottage with another. Of course she always tries to dress carefully, making sure to keep her powder compact in her bag just ready to dust her nose at crucial meetings with potential partners.
I would imagine that all private detectives need to have close links with someone in the police force, and Agatha is no exception. I enjoyed the links with her policeman friend and his family, especially the over-protective mother.
Thank goodness for the vicar’s wife who saves the day on several occasions but a little bit far-fetched that she came up with the solution for the event in the village to launch the new product.
I enjoyed the read but do not feel compelled to read others in the series, not much to discuss for a book group.
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE MURDEROUS MARRIAGE
The beginning of Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage is similar to one of Agatha Christie’s books, yet different. The sentences are short, crisp, to the point. Not a word is wasted as MC Beaton draws us into Agatha Raisin’s backstory and her present circumstance. You do not need to read any other book to know what Agatha Raisin has been up to. You identify with her immediately. She seems...just like you.
The book immediately delves into Agatha Raisin’s love life in Cotswold. She is about to marry James Lacey. She is nervous, hoping the wedding preparations will go well. She also wishes life after the wedding ceremony will be a happy one. Agatha’s first marriage to her ex-husband, Jimmy Raisin, has been difficult and bumpy. She does not want a repeat of that experience.
Things turn awry when Jimmy Raisin, who Agatha thought was dead, shows up at the wedding. He claims he and Agatha were not properly divorced. The wedding ceremony breaks into chaos. James Lacey leaves in disappointment, leaving Agatha to face Jimmy. Few days later, Jimmy’s corpse is found on a nearby farm. Agatha and James become suspects. The former lovers decide to collaborate temporarily to solve the mystery of Jimmy’s death.
MC Beaton’s style makes the book enjoyable. There are quirky characters to fascinate us and twists to keep us interested. However, it becomes a bit redundant towards the end. The author meanders along the well-trodden plot paths, leaving the reader bored, waiting for culprit to be revealed, and the book to end.
AGATHA RAISIN: A SPOONFUL OF POISON
I found this a very easy read as a book on its own, without having to read all the others in the series.
The story has the usual ups and downs of Agatha’s detective skills and her bullying ways, not to mention her love life, or lack of it. The plot was very good with lots of suspects, twists and turns and it kept me turning the pages to see ‘who dun it’. When I thought I had worked it out, something else would occur to change things.
The humour which runs through the story is infectious and I love the way MC Beaton brings all the characters alive so they feel like real people with real lives.
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE TERRIBLE TOURIST
Agatha Raisin pursues her former fiancé James Lacey to Northern Cyprus, where they should have been spending their honeymoon. It is there they meet an unlikely group of people, the well- connected Debenhams with their farmer friend, Henry Tembleton, and the loud and brash Rose Wilcox with her husband, Trevor, and their friend Angus King. When Rose is stabbed to death in a nightclub, they must all
remain on the island while the murder is investigated. Agatha is torn between discovering who has committed the crime and indulging in her obsession for James who remains distant.
This is a light-hearted romp written by an author with a fine sense of the ridiculous, poking fun at the crime genre. It is an enjoyable piece of escapism.
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE FAIRIES OF FRYFAM
Escaping a disastrous affair, Agatha rents a house in Fryfam, deepest Norfolk, where folk 'see things', such as a lights at the bottom of her garden. Gradually she is drawn into murder, blackmail and theft, which naturally she sorts out. All this aided, and hampered, by another ex - Sir Charles Fraith.
It is a cosy read and the rural setting in midwinter is very well described, although the dialogue, with misplaced Americanisms, does rather spoil the atmosphere. This little thriller is fun and frothy, and although Agatha herself is not a particularly pleasant woman, the plot is strong and keeps the reader engaged. Not much here for a reading group, perhaps, but for a long, rainy afternoon, ideal.
I would describe this book as a lightweight holiday read, were it not for the fact that there are too many characters for it to fit into the “pick up and out down” category.
This was my first M C Beaton novel, and unfortunately I found the central character, Agatha Raisin, to be unlikeable and very irritating. It was not credible that she could turn up at the doors of complete (or almost complete) strangers, asking them personal questions regarding a murder, and get a reply other than “go away, it’s none of your business”. However, she does get replies, but the book fails to involve and the only sympathetic character for me was Charles, her partner in sleuthing.
I found myself not caring who had murdered whom, but as M C Beaton has lots of fans and has written a number of books, I admit I may be in the minority by finding her story underwhelming and her characters under-developed. I fear the author may be trying for a modern day Miss Marple, but her puzzles and denouement are very inferior to those of Ms Christie.
Perhaps, as a fan of Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L Sayers, Margery Allingham and their ilk, I am taking the book too seriously, but it was not for me.
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE LOVE FROM HELL
Recently married Agatha has discovered that marriage isn’t the perfect scenario she had hoped for. Her husband disappears, the cottage shows signs of a struggle having taken place and ominous bloodstains are found. Local police suspect Agatha, and things only get worse when a woman is found murdered in her own home – the woman Agatha’s husband had been having an affair with. After many adventures and unbelievable plot contortions, Agatha solves the mystery and can begin to live her single live again.
I found the characters mostly shallow, stereotypical and unlikeable and the plot was implausible at best, totally unbelievable at worst. Nevertheless, I loved the book! It was funny and had a definite ‘feel good factor’. I will certainly read more of Agatha’s adventures, but not much for a book group to discuss.
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE WIZARD OF EVESHAM
Agatha is an unattached businesswoman who has taken early retirement and moved from the fast lane of doing deals in London to live the English countrywoman dream of cream teas and handsome wealthy bachelors.
But country living isn’t as genteel as she’d hoped. The gossip and jealousies of the local women she socialises with and the lack of designer shops are bad enough. Then Agatha discovers that under its tweed veneer, the sleepy village has a dangerous centre. Her visit to the glamorous local hairdresser, the Wizard of Evesham, ends with a dead body and a mystery to solve. And it will take a lot of restyles to find out who the murderer is.
The story pulls you along even if you start to find Agatha’s politically incorrect, and possibly rather dated, views on the environment and smoking slightly grating. However, it also succeeds in offering a blackly comic view of country living.
AGATHA RAISIN: THERE GOES THE BRIDE
The premise of the story is that Agatha Raisin’s ex- husband’s fiancée is shot dead at a party shortly before the wedding. The story follows Agatha’s delving into the motives of the fiancée’s zany family and colourful locals.
I like Agatha’s character as she has many realistic qualities and faults. There are many other interesting characters who appear to be regulars. Unfortunately as this was my first book in the series I was unable to appreciate them as much as I would have liked.
Another quibble is that the entire novel isn’t dedicated to the murder mystery, which I would prefer.
Overall though it was an entertaining read and I would read more in the series. This sort of novel will always serve a purpose and have a keen audience.
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE WALKERS OF DEMBLEY
There are times when all you want to read is a feel-good bit of flapdoodle. That’s when you should reach for an Agatha Raisin book.
The victim is a militant rambler passionately asserting her ‘right to roam’. Everyone is a suspect, from fellow walkers to irate landowners. Agatha shoulders her way into their privacy and the corpses pile up. Of course, as always, she solves the crime leaving a trail of disgruntled villagers behind her.
Agatha is anything but cosy. She’s pushy, she’s got a mega-sized chip on her shoulder about her humble beginnings, and she’s determined to find a replacement for her ex-husband, preferably the man next door.
Sheer escapism, which you can, and probably will, devour in one sitting.
Agatha Raisin was a secretary with ambitions to become a detective and when the opportunity arises to change profession she grasps it with both hands. This particular story sees her returning to her home in the Cotswolds only to become embroiled in investigating the grisly murder of a walker who had delighted in upsetting landowners by invoking her right to roam. Accordingly there are quite a number of suspects! Agatha is again assisted by her handsome nextdoor neighbour who she lusts after but the feelings are unfortunately not recipricated although Agatha continues to live in hopes.
The Agatha Raisin books have a strong following. There are some 20 books in the series and this particular book was first published in 1994. Whilst I can see that their pleasant nature makes them an enjoyable read I found this book a little too much of an easy read for me or perhaps it was just not what I wanted at this particular time. For this reason I am not sure there is very much for discussion by a reading group.
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE WITCH OF WYCKEN HADDEN
Agatha Raisin has lost her love and is losing her hair so she escapes to the seaside town or Wyckenhadden to recuperate. When she consults the local witch about her alopecia she becomes involved in a series of events which results in murder, romance, Scrabble and whisky.
The crime-scene is classic Christie, with the suspects lined up, each odd enough to have committed the murder, but Raisin has none of the genius of Poirot, or the correctness of Marple. She is as likely to be drunk in a bar or waking with an inappropriate man as making witticisms or sage comments. This makes her eminently likeable and real.
The style is very readable and I was engaged within a page. Agatha Raisin is an enigma and I look forward to finding out more about her. I recommend this to fans of crime and popular fiction alike.
Agatha, the self-styled amateur sleuth, finds herself in a sleepy, past its sell-by date seaside town in the depths of winter. It’s not long before events occur involving a local clairvoyant and potion mixer and a group of elderly residents at the hotel, drawing Agatha into their world.
This was the first Agatha Raisin story I’ve read and I enjoyed this ‘cosy crime’ tale; a couple of these novels would make easy, entertaining holiday reading. The story zipped along at a good pace and the writing style is tight. This story is the fourth in the series but they can be read in any order in terms of the murder-mystery aspect, as there is a useful short synopsis of Agatha’s life at the beginning. I soon gathered that Agatha’s personal life provides a strong theme running though the novel, so if you particularly wanted to follow this strand, it would be best to read them in order.
I feel that these types of stories are best enjoyed as a personal read; I don’t think there would be much to discuss in a group reading situation – as a genre these novels just don’t lend themselves to intricate dissection!
The one gripe I had was the decision of the publisher to print 30 pages of the first chapter of the next in the series – I simply find this an irksome habit, but not irritating enough to prevent me from reading more adventures with Agatha!
Agatha Raisin: Hiss and Hers
by MC Beaton
is published by Constable Crime