Category Archives: Robinson Publishing

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 & 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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Agatha Raisin & The Wellspring of Death – M.C. Beaton

I am sure I have blogged about the fact that M.C.Beeton’s Agatha Raisin novels are one of my guilty reading pleasures. It’s the comedy in the characters and the fact that they are genuinely a really good ‘whodunit’ that so far I have only managed to guess one of the murderers of. Agatha Raisin is a formidable character who I have grown to treasure and the never ending ‘will they, wont they’ of her and James Lacey is brilliant. So what would the seventh instalment of Agatha entail?

Well all is not well (oh these are apt puns) in the neighbouring village of Ancombe is in uproar, the idyllic rural town is under siege after a corporation wants to bottle and sell its natural spring water. This causes debate and eventually death, and who should find the body and who should become the corporations PR lady, why Agatha of course. Eventually the bodies toll up, how will Agatha make a positive spin out of this, and can she date her toy boy boss or is he just using her for PR and sex? How will James Lacey the love of her life feel about this? Murder, mystery and mayhem once more fall into the life of the crabbiest amateur sleuth.

Once again M.C.Beeton has created another wonderful modern story for our modern Miss Marple. No sooner have I finished one I long to pick the next one up, but I must be sparing and prolong the reading pleasure, maybe for a few weeks anyway. This series I cannot recommend enough and I will keep on and on at you all until you see the light. Was perfect on the plane to Philadelphia as I hate planes and flying and took me somewhere else. Or maybe that was the valium?

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Agatha Raisin & The Terrible Tourist – M.C. Beaton

So now I reveal to you one of my guilty pleasure reads… the Agatha Raisin mysteries. I cannot remember how I got into them in the first place, I am sure it was a case of seeing the colourful spines in Waterstones and then seeing one in Cancer Research in Balham which was the second in the series and then decided that as with most books I should read them in order.

Agatha Raisin I believe is the modern updated and comical version of Miss Marple. By comical I don’t mean that it takes the mickey out of Miss Marple or Agatha Christie far from it – I do wonder if the name is in act paying homage to the mistress of mystery and murder? Agatha leaves London after selling her business in book one of the series ‘Agatha Raisin & the Quiche of Death’ to the small idyllic village of Carsely where she is most unpopular and murders start. She is a tough cookie to crack arriving with a rather mountainous chip on her shoulder, and a tongue as sharp as knives. She is fabulous and gives the whole village a bit of a shake up while making some friends and several enemies along the way.

Agatha is now in her sixth instalment which sees her on her travels, for reasons I can’t really go into without spoiling the first five books (and which proves you should read them in order) which will make this an interesting review. Agatha Raisin has ended up abroad far from Carsely and in Cyprus in pursuit of the man she loves and occasionally stalks. Like the mayhem and murder magnet that she is homicide soon happens in this holiday resort and she decides to do some more detective work, making new friends and causing chaos along the way.

I won’t gain credibility for being an Agatha Raisin fan, in fact I am sure some ‘literary’ people will have switched off and barred this blog by now, I care not, everyone is entitled to their guilty pleasure and this is indeed mine. It was another sit down and read in a few hours job, I might try something longer next though I am still in the mood for some more murder.

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