“ Author: M. C. Beaton / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 29 July 2010 / Genre: Crime & Thriller / Publisher: Constable and Robinson / Title: Agatha Raisin and Love, Lies and Liquor / ISBN 13: 9781849011501 / ISBN 10: 1849011501 „
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Agatha Raisin is delighted when her ex-husband, James Lacey, invites her to go away on holiday with him. Thinking that their relationship may be about to start up again, she is all the more disappointed to find that James is taking her to an old English seaside resort that has seen better days. Even worse, she can't escape, because a woman staying at the same hotel is murdered, strangled with Agatha's scarf. As the prime suspect, Agatha is dragged away to the police cells, where she struggles to prove her innocence.
Once released, she finds she is too intrigued to leave - she wants to find out who the murderer is. There are no shortage of suspects; the dead woman's husband, her son and daughter-in-law and her best friend and his wife. James decides to leave Agatha to it; so she calls in the troops - the other private detectives from her detective agency. Before she manages to solve the crime though, several more people will die. And Agatha somehow manages to get herself abducted by a dodgy career criminal...Will she find the murderer before it is too late? And will she eventually be able to win James back into her life?
One thing about the Agatha Raisin series is that I know I will have an enjoyable read. Having just worked my way through a book that was particularly difficult to read, this was just what I wanted, so I was delighted to find this title in my library. M C Beaton is probably better known as the author of the Hamish Macbeth series, but this series, about an ex-PR executive turned private investigator is just as entertaining.
Characterisation is not M C Beaton's strongpoint. She has made more of an effort with Agatha than she has with her other characters; Agatha is basically all right, but she does have her failings, particularly in that she is jealous of any woman that gets in the way of her relationship with James Lacey and that she can often be selfish. Other characters are much more black and white; either deeply good, like Agatha's friend, the vicar's wife, or really obnoxious - in the case of this book, the murdered woman and her son and one of James Lacey's new admirers.
Agatha's relationship with James Lacey is complicated. They got together over the course of several books in the series, got married and then split up immediately after the marriage. Agatha is always trying to win James back, although I personally find James very annoying and selfish and think that the series would be better if he wasn't in it. M C Beaton seems to have a thing about unrequited love - Hamish Macbeth also has a love interest that he never seems to win over. In this book, though, Agatha does begin to win back a little self-respect, which is a relief!
Plot-wise, this is not the best; either compared to other writers of this genre, or compared to others in the series. There are, of course, a lot of impossible coincidences that are contrived to make the story work. That, I can forgive. But I didn't find myself as drawn in to this story as I have with others. I enjoyed the book, but it was more because of the characters than the plot itself. M C Beaton is a bit of a churner - she tends to write two or three books a year, and I think that she ought to slow down and spend a bit more time thinking about the plots.
At the same time, I did really enjoy the book. It is perfect light-reading when travelling on the tube when it is just not possible to become completely immersed in the book. I find these books a bit like an old pair of slippers - deeply comforting - and this one was no different. As a piece of literature, it will never win any prizes, but there is a wonderful comic touch to the style of writing that does make up for this.
In conclusion, I do recommend this book, although I would suggest that you start with the books earlier in the series - The Quiche of Death is the first one. I also think you need to approach it knowing what to expect - it is a bit of fun rather than a serious piece of work. However, because the plot is weaker than most of the others in the series that I have read, I'm giving it three stars.
The book is available from play.com for £4.99. Published by Constable and Robinson, it has 256 pages. ISBN: 9781845294489
Agatha Raisin thinks she's in for a treat when her old flame James Lacey invites her on a holiday, but to her horror, his idea of an exotic destination is a small, rundown town called Burryhill-on-Sea. Needless to say, the break doesn't go as planned. When a guest staying in the same hotel as Agatha and James is found murdered, Agatha quickly becomes prime suspect - and must solve this case from a prison cell!