Friday, September 21, 2018

The Dead Ringer (An Agatha Raisin Mystery #29)

Author: M.C. Beaton
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Mass Market Paperback; Audio CD: Digital Book
ISBN #: 9781250157690; 9781250157706; [9781538451793]
Minotaur Books [Blackstone Audio]
288 Pages
$17.70; $7.99; $55.00; $13.99 Amazon
October 2, 2018 (June 2019 MMP)


The idyllic Cotswolds village of Thirk Magna is best known for the medieval church of St. Ethelred and its bells, which are the pride and glory of the whole community.

As the bell-ringers get ready for the visit of the dashing Bishop Peter Salver-Hinkley, the whole village is thrown into a frenzy.  Meanwhile, Agatha convinces one of the bell-ringers, the charming lawyer Julian Brody, to hire her to investigate the mystery of the Bishop's ex-fiancée: a local heiress, Jennifer Toynby, who went missing years ago and whose body was never found...

Meanwhile, the bodies in the village just keep on piling up: the corpse of Larry Jensen, a local policeman, is discovered in the crypt.  Millicent Dupin, one of a pair of bell-ringing identical twins, is murdered in the church.  And Terry Fletcher, a journalist and (briefly) Agatha's lover, is found dead in her sitting room!  Agatha widens her investigation and very soon her main suspect is the handsome Bishop himself.  But could he really be behind this series of violent killings, or is it someone who wants to bring him - and his reputation - down?


Agatha Raisin goes to the village of Thirk Magna with her friend Mrs. Bloxby and sees a magnificent figure of a man in the form of Bishop Peter Salver-Hinkley and decides she'd like to know him better.  She also makes the acquaintance of Julian Brody, who dislikes the Bishop and asks her to look into the disappearance of his ex-fiancée Jennifer Toynby, who disappeared without a trace.  But as Agatha starts looking into the matter she discovers that the Bishop is unlikable (at least to her) and that not only is Jennifer's disappearance unsolved, but others in this village are soon found murdered:  Larry Jensen, a local policeman; Millicent Dupin, half of a horrible pair of middle-aged twins; and Terry Fletcher, an Australian journalist that Agatha fell immediately in love with - but ended the affair - leaving her with a broken heart.

But the newspapers aren't so kind and label her a home wrecker, and she can't find any trace of Jennifer; and these things, along with several others, lead her into a depression she isn't able to pull herself from.  But it is when she decides that she must no longer feel sorry for herself and get back to the job of detecting that she is able to discover the truth...only in doing so, this time she may have gone too far and the killer might just want to silence her forever...

I have always enjoyed the books of Ms. Beaton and this one is no different.  Our Agatha, who considers herself a good detective relying on her intuition, is once again looking for a case that is more exciting than finding one's missing pet.  But in doing so, she discovers that she doesn't care for the village of Thirk Magna nor any of its inhabitants, considering them all crazy.  She may not be far from the truth, but still she has a job to do and tries her best - at least until she is once again disappointed in love.

It doesn't last forever, but at least she has a staff that is reliable and can get things done while she is in her funk; and there is always Charles, faithful to her in his own way and his desire to snap her out of it and bring her back to reality heartens me each time.  I truly like this man, with all his quirks and even his habit of "forgetting his wallet" at opportune times.  This time out, he's more of a 'partner in crime' as it were, and while he's not happy about it, he's willing to help his Aggie along.

We are given more to Charles in this book than I think we have seen in any of the others and his devotion to Agatha is at once apparent, even if she doesn't see it herself.  It's probably because she spends her time wondering why she can't find her soul mate.  I would expect more from Agatha.

However, she does manage to get herself mired in a couple of harrowing situations (which we would expect no less of her) by not thinking things through completely; still, it is interesting to see how she extricates herself (with help) and quite fun to read about.

In the end, the book came together quite nicely while still leaving me at odds, as I found that while the plot is decent as always and the writing is indeed good; I am torn by the ending, which, I am sure is not an ending at all; and I will have to wait (impatiently) for the next in the series.


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