Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Blood of an Englishman: An Agatha Raisin Mystery

Author:  M.C. Beaton
Genre:  Mystery

Four Stars
Even though Agatha Raisin loathes amateur dramatics, her friend Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar’s wife, has persuaded her to support the local pantomime. Stifling a yawn at the production of "Babes in the Woods," Agatha watches the baker playing an ogre strut and threaten on the stage, until a trapdoor opens and the Ogre disappears in an impressive puff of smoke. Only he doesn't re-appear at final curtain.

Surely this isn't the way the scene was rehearsed? When it turns out the popular baker has been murdered, Agatha puts her team of private detectives on the case. They soon discover more feuds and temperamental behavior in amateur theatrics than in a professional stage show—and face more and more danger as the team gets too close to the killer.
Agatha Raisin is back in her 25th mystery.  While it starts out a bit slow, it does not disappoint.  Agatha and Mrs. Bloxby are at an amateur theatrical, and during the show, one of the players, Bert Simple, is murdered in a most unmanly way (pun intended).  Agatha is then hired by Gareth Craven, to find the killer.  It sounds like an easy case, but of course, it is not.
For Gareth is in love with the man's widow, Gwen - and it appears, so are half the men in Winter Parva, where the murder occurred.  But as it turns out, the dead man was quite the philanderer - although no one will come right out and say it.  So it is up to Agatha and her team of detectives to find out the truth.
Which, of course, is easier said than done.  And which, of course, leads Agatha to her new obsession, a schoolteacher named John Hale.  Fancying herself in love (again) she leaves most of the detecting in the case to Toni, her beautiful assistant, but orders her to stay away from John.  However, it doesn't take Agatha long to realize that things are not adding up the way they are supposed to, and people aren't talking the way they should.  While the time drags on - it turns from winter to spring before Agatha gets a real break in the case - Agatha has her attentions turning from one man to another, and her dreams of romantic love staying close to her heart.
When the truth is finally known, I will tell you that although it wasn't expected (there are clues to the killer, but you have to look for them); the gruesome discovery isn't pleasant at all.  Let's just say I'm grateful I don't live in Winter Parva.
We have again the two men who know Agatha best: her ex-husband James drifting in and out of her life between his travels; and the delightful Sir Charles Fraith whom, I think, actually cares for Agatha more than he lets on, keeping our Aggie safe as much as he is able to.  And with his lackadasial personality and wicked sense of humor, he definitely adds oomph to the story.
This book would have rated five stars, but unfortunately, Agatha's attitude that a woman without a man "feels diminished," and the fact that she must wear high heels around them (I gave up heels years ago rather than endure constant pain in my feet later in life) is telling of her attitude toward life.  She should be comfortable in her own skin at this point; and realize that men are more attracted to women who are independent and secure in themselves (one would hope).
The above notwithstanding, a recommended read and a delightful addition to the Agatha Raisin series.  I was given a free copy in return for an honest review, but this in no way influenced my decision.

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Dance of the Scarecrows (A Jonathan Wilder Mystery #1)

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