Thursday, October 5, 2017
Published October 2017 by St. Martin's Press
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review
Cotswolds inhabitants are used to inclement weather, but the night sky is especially foggy as Rory and Molly Devere, the new vicar and his wife, drive slowly home from a dinner party in their village of Sumpton Harcourt. They strain to see the road ahead—and then suddenly brake, screeching to a halt. Right in front of them, aglow in the headlights, a body hangs from a gnarled tree at the edge of town. Margaret Darby, an elderly spinster, has been murdered—and the villagers are bewildered as to who would commit such a crime.
Agatha Raisin rises to the occasion (a little glad for the excitement, to tell the truth, after a long run of lost cats and divorces on the books). But Sumpton Harcourt is a small and private village, she finds—a place that poses more questions than answers. And when two more murders follow the first, Agatha begins to fear for her reputation—and even her life. That the village has its own coven of witches certainly doesn't make her feel any better...
M. C. Beaton is known for two series of books, one featuring Hamish Macbeth (whom I adore), and one featuring Agatha Raisin. Agatha is a character that the other characters in Beaton's books tend to dislike so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that I don't care much for her myself. I feel rather bad about this given that she is a woman of a certain age (mine) who has bad a name for herself and runs her own business. But to call Agatha "independent" would be wrong. She is forever trying to find the love of her life; she wants the full on romance. I tend to come away from books featuring her feeling that we've dwelt entirely too much on Agatha's problems with men. Which isn't fair, I suppose, when I consider how much time is devoted to Hamish's love life in his series. Nevertheless.
This time it really did feel a bit like Beaton forgot all about the murders as the book went on. Even when we got to the end, it felt like Beaton had forgotten to tie up some of the loose ends. In some books, that would be alright. But this is a cozy mystery and cozy mysteries are meant to finish all neat and tidy. In fact, there was a lot about the book that felt as though it hadn't been thoroughly thought out, from the fact that the coven so much is made of that ends up featuring almost not at all to conversations that don't seem to flow properly. My copy is, as I note above, a egalley. Perhaps before the book went to press, some of those concerns were cleaned up.
In the end, it's a fun enough book (if one can say a book in which four people are murdered is "fun"). It just wasn't up to the standards of Beaton's previous books.