Category Archives: M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin Round Up; Curious Curates, Haunted Houses and Christmas Crimes

So my Christmas holidays started with the news that I had a stomach ulcer, which put paid to much merriment then and there (snowballs etc) and then I got a stonking cold within two days. Bah humbug, was how I was feeling. So what did I do? I ordered in plenty of ginger beer (Gran swore by this and it does kill a cold and sore throat honest) took to my bed and dusted off my Agatha Raisin series. I say dusted off because I have almost the whole series yet shockingly, I am actually a little bit disgusted with myself, I have not read any for TWO YEARS?!?!?  Well, to make up for it I binged.

For all those snobs out there who might think my love of Agatha Raisin is bonkers or a step into cosy crime I say you are all fools and good day to you. Firstly, Agatha Raisin books have become New York Times Bestsellers, though so did Fifty Shades of Grey I am aware. Secondly and I think most tellingly, M. C. Beaton is the most borrowed author in libraries in the United Kingdom with the Agatha Raisin’s being the most borrowed and I can see why. You know what you are going to get.

Constable Books, 2003 (2010 edition), paperback, fiction, 320 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Within turning the first few pages of Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate I knew I was back in a world that is familiar and going to give me just what I want, some escapist fun. The faithful characters who live in the fictional Cotswold village of Carsely are all waiting for me from the off. Agatha as usual is a bit bored having solved a case, maybe having been and done a PR freelance job in London for her gay best friend Roy, and now being back with her cats and pondering about why she is single, probably whilst eating a microwave meal and thinking something saucy about her male neighbour of something bitchy about one of the women in the Carsely Ladies Society.

Yet there has been a change in Carsely of late, there is a new curate and the ladies in the village are all besides themselves for Tristan Delon is a dish. Agatha has decided, after her second failed marriage and rebuff of her handsome crime writing neighbour John, she is off men for life. Yet when Tristan comes round and invites her for dinner she practically swoons. After dinner she can almost see her life ahead with a toy boy, until the next day when the potential toy boy is found dead.

Whilst she has sworn of her amateur detecting, when the eye of suspicion turns on the Vicar though Agatha knows she must clear the name of her best friend’s (Mrs Bloxby) husband she starts to do some digging, the initial clues coming from her dinner spent with the man himself. What follows is, as always, a wonderful darkly funny bumbling investigation where you may just guess that Agatha will solve it all (badly and possibly by fluke) whilst causing more mayhem (one scene with a suit of armour had me laughing, and then coughing) for about ten minutes.

Constable, 2003 (2010 edition), paperback, fiction, 320 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Next up was Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House where initially there is no body to deduce but some ghost hunting. As usual Agatha is bored having solved a case, maybe having been and done a PR freelance job in London for her gay best friend Roy, and now being back with her cats and pondering about why she is single, whilst having a fag and trying to ignore the new handsome neighbour Paul Chatterton.

Yet when she hears of a haunted house in a neighbouring village she, with Paul who she initial fobs off, turns ghost hunter to no great results other than embarrassing herself. However several weeks later the owner of the house, Mrs Witherspoon, is found dead with a broken neck and something seems suspicious. So naturally Agatha starts to investigate yet soon discovers with a woman like Mrs Witherspoon, whose daughter describes as ‘an old bitch’, there are many, many people who might have liked to have killed her. Yet which one did, and for what reason?

Again, I raced through this one which actually seemed to have a slight change in its formula, for once it isn’t Agatha who is so hapless and also there is a really interesting historical link to it all, there are the return of an old face or two, none of which I will say more about it for fear of spoilers. Suffice to say I loved it and was thrilled at the end where, and this is not a major spoiler as it in the blurbs of the later books, Agatha is setting up her own detective agency. Hoorah!

‘I hope you’re not doing anything to interfere with our investigations,’ he said.
‘Simply paying our respects.’
‘A word of warning to you Mrs Raisin. It’s only in books that old biddies from villages can help the police. In real life, they’re a pain in the arse.
‘Just like you,’ said Agatha savagely. ‘Sod off.’

Now the amateur detectives in you out there will notice I mentioned Christmas crimes. This is because by the time this goes live I may well have read two more Agatha Raisin stories since then, Agatha Raisin: Hell’s Bells and Agatha Raisin and the Christmas Crumble which are both Christmas specials and *mumbles* are also ebook short novellas. ALSO (as if this wasn’t enough Agatha Raisin delight) on Boxing Day, my favourite day of the year, there will also be a new adaptation of Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (the first one) on Sky 1. (All trailers here.) More below…

I have to say the jury will be out for me on Ashley Jensen as Agatha but M.C. Beaton has said on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour that she is amazing so we will see, I am very much looking forward to watching it over Chrimbles though. Anyway, if you haven’t given Agatha a whirl then please do and if you have tell me all about it…

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Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came – M.C. Beaton

I have backdated this review; I am not posting it on the 23rd of April but actually on the 26th. This is for no other reason than the fact I have a huge pile of books which need reviewing and I want them out in the world. Being an over thinker, about everything it is ridiculous, I thought that people might think I was hiding these books away in the blog in a slightly guilty manner. The Agatha Raisin novels are indeed deemed a ‘guilty pleasure read’, yet I feel no guilt reading them at all. They are a delightful escape especially seeing as with this one, which is the eleventh in the series, M.C. Beaton seems to have changed things a lot.

Constable and Robinson, paperback, 2006, fiction, 224 pages, from my personal TBR

My love for the Agatha Raisin escapes I allow myself sporadically (well you don’t want to read a series too quickly do you) is strong, yet I am not the sort of person who is so blinded by the enjoyment I can’t see their faults. All of them so far have been great, but dare I say that the Agatha, James Lacey and Sir Charles love triangle has become a little formulaic. On one hand you know where you are, there is a certain familiarity to it, on the other it can be a little predictable. Well in ‘Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came’ there is a big change. If you are reading the series in order you might want to skip the next paragraph or two though for some spoilers…

You see Agatha and James are getting a divorce and Sir Charles has met someone else. So now, along with possibly the darkest murder in the series yet, we have some new characters coming in, such as crime writer John Armitage, and we see a slightly new Agatha too. Agatha has been away in the South Pacific taking a break from life to lick her wounds post divorce and also to get a bearing on her life. When she returns she witnesses the sighting of a drowned women dressed in full bridal attire. Agatha being Agatha decides that she must find out more and so we know we have a new case of amateur detection on the go.

What I particularly liked about ‘The Day the Floods Came’ was the fact it seemed so much darker than the previous novels. It still has that comfortable village life feel, the bumbling characters and waspish wit, and yet there is a real unease here. Agatha finds herself, sometimes to comical effect, submerged in the world of clubbing and drugs (something which normally turns me off a book) and youth culture. Despite her being quite a brittle character she also seemed warmer and more empathetic and yet even more no nonsense at the same time, she really is a woman after my own heart. Most importantly, I didn’t have a clue who the killer was.

So all in all, ‘The Day The Floods Came’ is one of my favourite Agatha Raisins yet. Still escapist, funny and familiar, so I can get lost in the world of the Cotswolds that I like so much, and yet with a certain freshness and even slight edge to it that makes me want to pick up the thirteenth (hopefully not unlucky) in the series very soon. Lovely stuff!

It’s nice to have a favourite series and get the comfort and the surprise element isn’t it? Which series do you love? Are you and Agatha fan or can you just not see the point? What are your thoughts on ‘guilty pleasure reads’? You can hear myself and Gavin talking about just such a thing on The Readers here.

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Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell – M.C.Beaton

I was talking about the Agatha Raisin novels the other day and some people were really shocked that I liked them (aka judged me). ‘I think they must be your guilty pleasure’ one of these new acquaintances said (though how long we will be acquaintances after Raisin-Gate I am not sure), my response was ‘well maybe… only without the guilt’. For me Agatha Raisin is someone, I know she isn’t actually real, who I turn to when I am feeling a bit down in the dumps or when I need a break for some of the more thought provoking literature I might have devoured. I seem to have tripped myself up there and accidentally sounded like a snob, I am not a snob, I love these books and part of reading is about simple escapism and reading pleasure and that for me is Agatha Raisin.

You know what you are getting when you open an Agatha Raisin. People are going to get murdered, most likely in Carsley where Agatha lives (unless, as is her want sometimes, she has taken us on holiday with her) and that Agatha is going to somehow end up snooping and trying to solve the murder whilst getting the backs up of all the police, suspects and loved one surrounding the case of the deceased, generally through offending with her blunt personality and endless sarcasm.  We have all this once more with ‘Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell’ only this story has even more of a personal twist for one of the suspects, who promptly disappears, is James Lacey, Agatha’s husband.

Constable and Robinson Books, paperback, 2006, fiction, 224 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

In fact the whole Agatha and James thing, which has been going on throughout the eleven books so far and I am guessing will continue to do, is in many ways the heart of this book. Things have not been marital bliss for Agatha and James, they live in separate houses though next door to each other for one, and after James thinks Agatha has had an affair with Sir Charles (another recurring character in Agatha’s life) he has an affair with Melissa, a local bit of stuff, who then ends up dead and prime suspect number one, James, vanishes. Of course the reader knows where but it is up to Agatha to find out and clear his name whilst doing so and of course I am not going to spoil this one any further.

I will be honest and say that ‘Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell’ wasn’t my favourite of the series so far but I did really enjoy it. I enjoyed going back to the Cotswolds and catching up with the acidic and very funny if heartbroken, Agatha and also seeing Mrs Bloxby, Roy Silver and Bill Wong and how they were all getting on. I also enjoyed following the trail of clues and red herrings and not having a clue who the killer was until just the right moment. It’s was just the escapism I was craving and reminded me why I have an Agatha on the bedside at all times, you never know when you might need that comfort read one dark winters (or summers, or any evening really) night.

Are you a fan of the Agatha Raisin series? Have any of you read the other series by M.C.Beaton, or the stand alone novels and how did you get on? I haven’t ventured yet. And what, if you have one, is your guilty free guilty pleasure read?

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Agatha Raisin & The Busy Body – M.C. Beaton

(Oops this should have gone live earlier but for some reason didn’t!) I don’t know about you but the ideal Christmas themed read for me (not Christmas time read full stop – I am debating a few giant books for that coveted role) is something that I can escape into, pick up and put down every so often when last minute shopping or potato peeling is required and then step straight back into. It needs to make me laugh, have me hooked and be a good excuse to remove myself from the family now and again (apologies if they are reading – but it’s true). So this year I plumped for the latest Agatha Raisin novel ‘Agatha Raisin & The Busy Body’, and broken my ‘ must read a series in order rule’ just as I did last year with ‘Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye’. I had high hopes I was in for a treat and was proved right!

Agatha has only been away a few days, on a very unsuccessful trip to Corsica to avoid Christmas only she realises she misses it, and in that time John Sunday a new resident in Carsley has been driving everyone in the village and the villages nearby mad with his health and safety rules and regulations. John Sunday is one of those terrible jobs worthy types who takes everything too far and makes everyone’s life a misery. He bans the Christmas Tree from the roof of the church as it may fall on someone, original Victorian wooden shelves from the local shop for fear of splinters, candles in church as they may burn people… the list goes on. So when he is killed in front of Agatha’s very eyes not only is everyone very relieved they are also all suspects and so while the police take on finding his murderer so of course doe Agatha.

I of course can’t tell you ‘whodunit’ as that would ruin the book for you. I can tell you that in getting to the cosy yet thrilling dénouement  Agatha gets herself in trouble, a muddle and a little bit of danger – so business as normal then. Only I always forget about the business and I can’t work out if I like it or not. Sorry, slight tangent diversion there but in the latest books  Agatha has her own detective agency and as I am reading further back in the series when she goes it alone a lot more I am unsure of how much I like this because I haven’t seen it naturally emerge yet. Not that this means you cant read Agatha Raisin at any point as a standalone novel, but why would you want to when there are 20+ books in the series and they are all so lovely (in a slightly murderous fashion).

I think out of all the Agatha Raisin books that I have read so far this might be the quickest one in which we get thrown instantly into the story and taken on a whirlwind of secrets and twists and turns as the tale unfolds in all its directions. If you want some fun and thrills over Christmas from the comfort of your own chair, and we all know how that feels after one too many mince pies, then I would suggest you give this book a whirl. I thoroughly enjoyed it! 8.5/10

Anyone else giving Agatha a Christmas airing at all? What Christmas reading have you got stuck into so far, any with festive themes?

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Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden/Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam – M. C. Beaton

I don’t think I have ever multiple reviewed in a blog post before but I thought I would make an exception today and write about not one but two books. Last week I was having dreadful sleeping problems and it just leaves you feeling in a real funk. I had some big books I really wanted to read before my reading life is taken over for a few months and yet I simply wasn’t in the mood. All I wanted was crime, and on one specific day I needed it cosy and lashings of it so I greedily read ‘Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden’ and went straight from that to ‘Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryam’ sometimes you just have to be a glutton and these were perfect for the lethargic mood I was in though one of them more so than the other.

I like to read any series in the correct order (though I did jump ahead of myself reading the festive ‘Kissing Christmas Goodbye’ last December) and so first up was ‘The Witch of Wyckhadden’. After her last involvement in solving a murder leaves her looking some what less than her best, Agatha Raisin runs away to a seaside village by that famous old tradition of closing your eyes and putting your finger on the map. Wyckhadden is one of those seaside town that during the summer months can be ‘the place to be’ and yet in the autumn isn’t such a delectable place to stop, in fact it’s a bit of a ghost town and seems to be filled with old people who despite not actually being that much older than Agatha she doesn’t want to be associated with. Yet when one of them recommends a ‘local witch’ to help with a hair problem who ends up dead the next day Agatha needs to befriend them in order to try and solve the mystery by herself.   

I love M.C. Beaton’s wit and this novel was brimming with it. Agatha is her normal sharp and snappish self, and yet manages to attract the attention of one of the local policeman in a rather romantic way. I could just be reading far too much into it but this book did seem to be saying something about old age and how you, or Agatha, might think that old people are past it they most certainly aren’t they do still feel young and quite naughty at heart and you should never judge people on instant appearances. There is a brilliant makeover scene though which had me smiling away to myself. This is a book that will have you itching to read the rest. 7/10. (Which is why I then went and grabbed the next one almost instantly.)

‘Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam’ sees Agatha heading to Norfolk, again with her ‘wherever a finger lands on the map’ routine on the word of a fortune teller she saw in her previous adventure in the seaside town of Wyckhadden. Once there she finds that really maybe she should have stayed back in her home in the village of Carsley, especially when rather ominous twinkling lights start to appear at the bottom of her rented garden. However when the lord of the manor is murdered Agatha decides to stay on before being forced to when police discover a draft of a book Agatha started (to show off to all new acquaintances in the village that she is a budding author) has the exact same opening murder scene as the one they found at the manor. Agatha therefore feels she has no choice, or so she tells herself, but to clear her name by finding the real killer.

I don’t really know why but this one didn’t work as well for me as Agatha’s adventures in amateur detecting normally do with me. There seemed to be too many characters and strands, which didn’t even become red herrings, and yet nothing really happened either – oh apart from a Stubbs painting getting stolen. Then when the murderer was caught the motive felt a bit ‘meh’ and it didn’t all seem to make sense. It lacked something and sort of, and I feel mean saying this because I do love this series despite how uncool or unliterary it may make me, felt rather like a filler in the series. Yet something happens towards the very end, rather too hurriedly if you ask me, that if you missed this book you might feel thrown between the books on either side of this one. I am hoping this is just a small blip in a rather wonderful cosy crime series. 5/10

You know if I did a ‘suggestions for perfect prose partners’ it would only be me saying start from the beginning of the series if you haven’t, so I won’t suggest anything other than that. Are there any other Agatha addicts out there? Any new converts to this series? Has anyone heard the radio series as I am absolutely desperate to I think Penelope Keith must be wonderful in it. Oh and there will be a BIG Agatha Raisin competition coming up on the release of the 21st book in the series in October so keep your eyes peeled then!

I have just spotted a revamped series of M.C. Beatons ‘Edwardian Mysteries’ are coming out, which were originally published under her real name Marion Chesney, with delightful titles such as ‘Snobbery with Violence’ and ‘Our Lady of Pain’ has anyone read those, as I am now desperate to?

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Agatha Raisin & Kissing Christmas Goodbye – M.C. Beaton

This year for the first time ever I decided to get myself involved in some seasonal reading. Christmas tends to be the period when I read lots and lots of guilty pleasures and one or two big books I have been meaning to read for a while. So I thought if I could combine a guilty pleasure (though actually there is no guilt involved) with a seasonal read that would get me just in the mood for what’s coming tomorrow and this book has helped get me even further into the Christmas spirit even though it actually starts off in October. (Currently this Christmas Eve I am reading the seasonal ‘Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie, thoughts on Boxing Day.)

M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye is a wonderful title for a book though a teeny tiny bit misleading as really Christmas happens right at the end. However when it does show up it sets you in the Christmas mood as Agatha tried to organise the whole village to have dinner in her cottage, it involves a lot of expense builders and hired chef’s and is very funny. However by this point a murder or two have already been solved so no actual festive murder, if there is such a thing, has taken place which is what I was expecting. I still enjoyed it immensely.

Now I did a rare thing reading this book and skipped about eight of the series in order to read something festive and so quite a lot had changed but it did prove you can throw yourself into any Agatha to hand and they are stand alone reads. Anything like her complex love life is explained in a few sentences or in the case of this book with an introduction of the story so far. I didn’t realise she had a Detective Agency now though and at first the idea of it really put me off, in the end though it worked and was quite important to the plot.

Agatha receives a letter from a Mrs Tamworthy who states “I think a member of my family is trying to kill me. Isn’t the weather warm for October?” Initially thinking she is crackers and having far too much work to do she ignores the note. However after dubiously hiring a new detective in the form of seventeen year old Toni Gilmour time is freed up and indeed a murder does take place. Agatha soon hits dead ends whereas Toni seems to have amazing luck solving cases so she drags her into it all with her leading to some interesting an not seen before adventures for Agatha some quite, quite dark.

Toni is a great character with a very interesting and topically current back story and who also brings out some very different sides of Agatha’s personality both good and bad. Hopefully, once I catch up, I will read more of her in the future. I was briefly wondering if a spin off series might be planned but I can’t see it happening just yet. I thoroughly enjoyed this despite my worry the detective agency might be too much. It does mean we get less of the wonderful characters from the village, but we also get to meet a whole host of new ones in two other settings. Another delightful Agatha read and just about right for Christmas time.

I always wonder why people keep moving into these fictional murderous villages, I mean with such high death tolls I don’t think I would move in, would you? Actually in this case I might, I would love to go off sleuthing with Agatha Raisin especially as I have the daunting task of Christmas dinner for six tomorrow, that seems much more of a difficult prospect and not half as much fun, though hopefully the resulting meal will be!! Merry Christmas!

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Agatha Raisin & The Wizard of Evesham – M.C. Beaton

I mentioned that of late I have been having a bit of readers block. One book that helped me through was the latest wonderful book group choice. I always find that when you have a reading slump there will be some titles, characters or authors that will get you through it. One series that will always get me through is Agatha Raisin by M.C.Beaton, I simply adore them, though shockingly haven’t read any for ages. I like to leave a break between them but this is ridiculous. They may not be the most literary or trendy reads but they are a true gem of a series. If you like mardy middle aged women who nosey at their neighbours, gossip about them, find them dead and then solve the murder with a nice cup of tea or a G&T then this series is for you.

The Wizard of Evesham is the eighth in the Agatha Raisin series and sees her back in her cottage in the Cotswold village of Carsley bored with the sweltering summer and life in general. She decides that maybe a new image is called for an in doing so she hears of a Mr John who all the ladies say cuts hair like a wizard. In doing so she meets this legendary Mr John and finds herself falling for more than his charming cuts, though this gets scuppered when someone decides to poison Mr John. Throw in neighbours who blanche at the victims name, a bruised heart and Sir Charles Fraith a one nightstand looking to start where they left off and help her solve the riddle Agatha has a lot on her plate. Will Agatha be able to find out who killed Mr John and why? She will need to get out of the murder victims burning inferno of a house first!

This was the perfect read to break my reading slump. It is also the perfect read if you like spending an autumn or winter evening giggling at gossip and trying to solve a murder with a nice cup of tea, or some sort of tipple, very like our heroine. I love all the characters and you can get through one of these in an hour or two. I adore Agatha as a character and always find as soon as I have finished one I am almost instantly finding the next and wanting to open its pages. This paragraph might tempt you more, it had me giggling…

She trudged home afterwards. There did not seem to be a breath of air. She opened all the windows. She looked at the silent phone. Could anyone have rung while she was out? She dialled 1571 for the Call Minder. ‘You have one message’ said the carefully elocuted voice of the computer. ‘Would you like to hear it?’

‘Of course I would, you silly bitch’ growled Agatha. There was a silence and then the voice said primly ‘I did not hear that. Would you like to hear your message?’

With quirky characters, murder and maybe I had finished this in the space of an hour or so and guess what. My reading block had completely vanished and I have been reading as normal ever since. Sometimes you need this complete reading pleasures, that might not be everyone’s cup of tea but are certainly yours, to get you back into the reading world don’t you? What books do you turn to?

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