M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Witches’ Tree

"..Beaton’s books always remind me of the great Gladys Mitchell.."


Cotswolds inhabitants are used to bad weather, but the night sky is especially foggy as Rory and Molly Harris, the new vicar and his wife, drive slowly home from a dinner party in their village of Sumpton Harcourt. They struggle to see the road ahead - but then screech to a halt. Right in front of them, aglow in the headlights of their car, a body hangs from a lightning-blasted tree at the edge of town. But it's not suicide; Margaret Darby, an elderly spinster of the parish, has been murdered - and the villagers are bewildered as to who would commit such a crime, and why.

Agatha Raisin rises to the occasion, delighted to have some excitement back in her life as if truth be told, she was getting bored of the long run of lost cats and divorces on the books. But Sumpton Harcourt is an isolated and unfriendly 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 her life. That the village has its own coven of witches certainly doesn't make her feel any better...

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I have enjoyed all the Raisin books over the years, however something jarred with me while reading this latest. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. It wasn't that the plot didn't make sense, as normally none of the plots make much sense with Agatha blithering about accusing all and sundry of committing the crime, so it wasn't that. The scenes came to an abrupt end as always, so it wasn't that. Even though I have finished the book, I still can't quite get clear in my head why I didn't enjoy this latest outing for Agatha. Maybe it is due to a feeling of repetition with her relationship with Sir Charles which was fun to begin with, but now feels a bit long in the tooth. I know men are her Achilles' heel, but Agatha is an intelligent woman so it amazes me she hasn't given Charles his marching orders! The plot sounded quite exciting, but didn't quite deliver. Beaton's books always remind me of the great Gladys Mitchell, who also never really had a plot and went off in all different directions in her books (whilst keeping them wildly entertaining). However, Mitchell's great Mrs Bradley mysteries were always different and never repeated themselves (if they did I have never noticed)! This didn't hit the mark for me, but I will most likely still pick up the next Raisin in the hope that the bar has once again been raised.

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