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I am hooked on this series which has Agatha Raisin as the main character .Who lives in a sleepy village called Carsely in the Cotswold. The start of the book I read that Agatha was preparing to marry her next door neighbour James Lacey she had sold her house and put all her furniture into storage.
Her dear friend Roy Silver and work colleague from London wanted some form of revenge after he felt he had been snubbed during a previous case which they were both did not like the idea of Agatha Raisin as he knew she had been married before and was not certain whether he was a live or dead so he started to search for Mr Raisin yes he did find him and so on the day that the wedding ceremony and at the crucial point in the wedding proceedings there was a disturbance and a policeman and Agatha's first husband who she did think had died came in. Further talks then were held and the wedding sadly was cancelled. James left on his own in a upset and furious state ,when Agatha went back to her cottage that she had sold she then tried to cancel the house sale arranged to get her furniture out of store and provisions from a local shop.She hoped to buy back her house from Mrs Hardy and would even offer her more money than she paid for it.
She did not realise that her husband had been murdered and then police came round took her down to the police station where she was told she was a suspect of murder. Also James Lacey was a suspect so they both started to work together to find out who actually did the murder. There relationship had changed from a happy couple who was getting married to a couple who just tolerated each other just determined to clear their names.
It is a very easy read and the plots are very predictable. Very enjoyable and humorous in parts .
Agatha Raisin is about to get married to James Lacey when her husband Jimmy turns up, the husband she had presumed dead many years ago. This turn of events leads to James cancelling the wedding in anger and Agatha physically attacking Jimmy which doesn't bode well for either Agatha or James as they're both considered as prime suspects when Jimmy's dead body is found shortly afterwards. Agatha has sold her house to the annoying Mrs Hardy and when James calls off the wedding, Mrs Hardy refuses to sell her house back to her (imagine that?)!
So off they go to clear their names and uncovering blackmail and secrets along the way that people don't want coming out, all the while Agatha trying to get James to fall back in love with her as he seems to have lost total faith in their relationship.
Agatha Raisin is a fictional middle aged PR agent who has retired from London to live in the Cotswolds. She is the creation of Marion Chesney who goes by the pen name of M C Beaton. Beaton's first novel starring Agatha Raisin was called Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death which was published in 1992 in which Agatha Raisin is supposed to be about 53 years of age. In Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage it is unknown how many years on this is from the first book but as far as I could gather it's maybe a year or two at the most.
I found it quite interesting to read that a woman of 55 still has the same insecurities (no matter how unfounded) about men, love and her looks as a woman might have in her 20s, 30s and 40s. It was amusing to read how jealous Agatha feels whenever they're in the middle of looking into something relating to the case and another woman is involved. No matter what age the other woman is - whether in her 20s or 70s - Agatha feels pangs of jealousy as these women pay so much attention to "her" man! Such is the character so true to life that you can really identify with her. Beaton has not glamorised her lead character at all. There are parts in the book when Agatha and James are out investigating and he wishes she would make more effort to impress him with her makeup and clothes and yet she's thinking similar things about him not bothering to look smart for her anymore or the fact that he pays so much attention to other women. All these issues are unspoken between the two of them; pretty much as younger couples might behave but are too proud to discuss with each other. Don't get me wrong, this book is definitely not a romance. It's mostly about the detective work Agatha carries out but she is made more human by showing her feelings towards the man she was due to marry.
There are some quite amusing parts of the book, one of which was when Agatha expects the woman who bought her house to sell it back to her. Strange that you would assume you can sell your house, exchange and complete contracts, have the new owner move in and then expect them to sell it back to you just because you changed your mind and want your house back. An excerpt from the book just after Mrs Hardy slams the door in Agatha's face:
" "Stupid old trout!" raged Agatha to James when she returned to join him and told him about Mrs Hardy's continued refusal to sell the house."
Another bit which made me chuckle as it was so true to life is when Agatha and James go undercover at a "health farm" and they meet the director:
"... His eyes surveyed Agatha and James. 'You, Mr Perth, look too fit to need our help.'
'It was my wife's idea.'
'Ah, yes, I see.' The mild eyes turned on Agatha and she could feel those little rolls of fat at her middle-aged waist growing bigger."
Those of us with even a bit of excess weight know what it's like to breathe in a little when faced with a Hitler-like fitness instructor at the gym or when you're introduced to someone who is ultra-fit and makes you feel somewhat frumpy!
There were several parts of the book that made me laugh out loud as they were so amusing and true to life but I don't know if a man would find the same humour in those particular bits as it's written mostly from a female point of view but in general I think the books would appeal to both male and female readers.
There are several recurring characters in the Agatha Raisin books (apart from Agatha herself) that I've summarised below:
James Lacey - in this particular book he cancels his wedding to Agatha due to the husband turning up that she claims she thought was dead and of whom he previously knew nothing about. It's a big insult to his pride that this happens on his wedding day, he's always been a confirmed bachelor and to finally decide to get married and then have this happen on his wedding day, it's very hard for him to forgive his fiancé for this betrayal. It's difficult to work out his true feelings for Agatha in this book by itself, although I'm fairly sure their relationship is explored much further in preceding and later books.
Bill Wong - the local arm of the law who is in his mid 20s and is honestly the first friend Agatha Raisin has ever had. They have a strange friendship, partly due to their age difference and partly due to the fact that she is trying to solve crimes when its' actually his job to do so. In this book Bill is romantically paired up with a fellow police officer, a woman who dislikes Agatha Raisin intensely and will stop at nothing to get promoted. It is stated in the book that Bill's mother is English and his father is Chinese.
Mrs Bloxby - she's the vicar's wife. Very fond of Agatha and quite patient with her even though Agatha seems a bit mean to her at times. She seems to be her one true friend throughout the book and I felt sorry for her on a couple of occasions in the book when Agatha snaps at her or complains about village life being dull sometimes. Her heart is in the right place and she's always there ready to help out.
Miss Simms - secretary of the local ladies society - I found it rather strange that she is often referred to as the village's only unmarried mother - not a term one really hears much these days!
The book cover is quite pleasant to look at. When I studied it carefully, it actually made me feel quite peaceful - it's sort of a watercolour painting of the village of Caresly in the Cotswolds with a narrow river running through the middle with a couple standing on a bridge looking out over the water, some sturdy looking houses including one that seems to have been converted into a local café or bar with tables outside with people sat around relaxing, with autumnal trees with brown leaves on either side of the river. You might wonder why I've described the book colour in so much detail but it gives one a feeling of what the village is like so you almost feel yourself there when reading the book!
I have been a diehard Agatha Christie fan for most of my life and have over 50 of her novels. I can't really compare Christie novels with Beaton's as they are quite different; apart from the fact that they are about solving crimes or mysteries. Also this is the first Beaton book I've read so I'll see how I go with other books in the series before I can say Beaton's writing style or the character of Agatha Raisin has really grown on me or. I would have to say that I still much prefer Christie's way of writing but I liked this book well enough to go out and buy the preceding four books to this one as well as the next three in the series as I was lucky enough to spot them in a charity shop just days after I finished this one!
The book is written in a very easy to read style, both literally and in appearance - actually in rather a large font - probably Times Roman 12 point which seems quite large to me. The book is about 250 pages in length and I managed to finish the whole book in a couple of hours - basically in one sitting. It wasn't so much that I started the book and couldn't put it down - it was more the fact that it wasn't an overly long book that I would need to read it over a few days. Beaton is a modern day writer and she writes with a style which doesn't need the reader to pay too much attention to the finer details.
The cover price of Agatha Raisin & the Murderous Marriage is £5.99 and it was published in 1996 in the USA and first published in the UK in 2006 by Constable & Robinson. The ISBN number is 9 781845 291839 and you can buy it from Amazon for the discounted price of £4.79
Books in the series in order of publication:
* Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (1992)
* Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet (1993)
* Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener (1994)
* Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley (1995)
* Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage (1996)
* Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist (1997)
* Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death (1998)
* Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham (1999)
* Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden (1999)
* Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam (2000)
* Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell (2001)
* Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came (2002)
* Agatha Raisin and the Case of the Curious Curate (2003)
* Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House (2003)
* Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance (2004)
* Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon 2005)
* Love, Lies and Liquor: An Agatha Raisin mystery (2006)
* Kissing Christmas Goodbye: An Agatha Raisin mystery (2007)
* Agatha Raisin and a Spoonful of Poison (2008)
I'm not sure that I'll read them all - I'll see how I go with the other 7 or 8 that I have already bought but it'll be interesting to see how Agatha Raisin progresses if I get through them all as she could be about 60 or 70 (who knows how far the years will actually progress in the books?) in the latest book in the series (published in 2008). She could be married to James Lacey or maybe not, she could be on her third or fourth marriage! Who knows how many other cases she's sewn up by now? I look forward to gradually finding out! I understand that this series of books has also been made into a BBC Radio 4 series starring Penelope Keith...
All in all, I'm quite happy to give Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage a strong 8 out of 10.
NB: M C Beaton is also well known for writing the Hamish McBeth stories which were televised starring Robert Carlyle.