M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin: Dishing the Dirt

"The writing is sparse, readable and without an unnecessary word."


The Cotswold village of Carsley has a new inhabitant, Jill Davent and Agatha Raison is not impressed. Jill is a therapist, and she has set her sights on Agatha's former husband, James Lacey. Not only that - she knows far too much about Agatha's past - a past Agatha would prefer remained hidden, as she was born in an insalubrious high-rise in Birmingham to parents who were alcoholics and sponged off the state. She overcame this to run a successful public relations firm in London, and after she retired, a detective agency in the town of Mirchester, near Carsley.

Agatha being Agatha, she lets everyone know that she thinks Jill is a troublemaker and charlatan who would be better off dead. And then Jill is found dead, and of course, Agatha is the main suspect. So, together with Sir Charles Fraith, an occasional bedmate, she sets out to discover who the real killer is. Along the way she receives a bouquet which could have killed her, and nearly falls for yet another handsome, but totally unsuitable, man - Mark Dretter.

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Okay, I admit it - I am an Agatha Raison fan. They're not to everyone's taste, but I love them. They're in the cosy English village genre, but at the same time they've subverted the genre and given it new edge. Agatha is the antidote to the dry, spinsterish Miss Marple for a start. She smokes, drinks, swears, falls in love at the drop of a hat, sleeps around and - o joy! - eats chips in restaurants (can you see Jane Marple doing that?) which is all right by me. The writing is sparse, readable and without an unnecessary word. The plot manages to be convoluted while still being straightforward, which is a difficult trick to pull off. The other characters in the book are sometimes ciphers, but Agatha herself is a fully-rounded person who, for all she is in her 50s, can experience jealousy, hatred, lust, vindictiveness, fear and indecision - sometimes all in the one afternoon. There is a satisfying denouement, and plenty of clues along the way to work out who has it in for Agatha – again!

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