“ Author: M. C. Beaton / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 25 March 2010 / Genre: Crime & Thriller / Publisher: Constable and Robinson / Title: Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley / ISBN 13: 9781849011372 / ISBN 10: 1849011372 / Alternative EAN: 9781841197760 „
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MC Beaton is the pseudonym under which Marion Chesney writes murder-mystery novels. Her most famous creation is probably Hamish MacBeth, whose investigations were turned into a television series in the '90s. Her other detective fiction series features the eponymous Agatha Raisin.
'Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley' is the fourth in the series and available new from Amazon for £5.59, although it's worth looking around for it cheaper. The library is always a good bet for this sort of book, and that's where I borrowed my copy from.
The books in the series can be described as fitting into the 'cosy murder-mystery' genre as carved out by Agatha Christie, but closer to the Miss Marple books than to Poirot.
The setting is always primarily the sleepy [gossipy] Cotswold village of Carsely to which our irascible protagonist, Agatha Raisin, has retired. Agatha was a high-powered ambitious PR woman from an inner-city background, who chose to sell her company and retire early to this idyllic countryside retreat. Her struggles to fit into rural living and be accepted in the village form part of the story arc of each book and the series as a whole, as does her infatuation with James Lacey, her neighbour. At times faces from her past re-enter her life, often trying to pull her back into the rat-race.
While Agatha may have moved into Carsely for a change in gear and lifestyle, it's not a quiet life as she keeps finding herself involved in unsolved murders. These she often sees more as an opportunity to interact with her stand-offish object of desire, Lacey, with whom she investigates matters.
In the 'Walkers of Dembley', Jessica, militant 'right to roam' leader of a group of ramblers conflicts with the owner of a large estate and comes to a sticky end at the end of a spade. One of the ramblers has heard of Agatha's previous investigations and asks her to help find out who the murderer is. Like the baronet and his creepy manservant Gustav, every member of the group has a motive for killing her, as we discover.
Agatha draws Lacey into helping her in the detective work, for which they go under cover as husband and wife, much to her delight. Their bumbling attempts to solve the mystery by infiltrating the rambling society end in a hectic dash to try to prevent another murder.
Agatha Raisin is sometimes difficult to like on the page for the reader as well as in the stories for the other characters; she is by turns arrogant, cantankerous, gullible and over-sensitive, however, she is also a vulnerable and good-hearted day-dreamer. Her flaws make her a more interesting and credible character, while also providing plenty of mileage for humour.
The Agatha Raisin books all have this good dash of humour and a sense of the ridiculous added to the clue-puzzle format of the detective genre.
I would say that this novel is a light - and slight - read. It won't challenge you or make you think, but it is very readable: a burger rather than a steak of a book. While the whole point of a good clue-puzzle type murder-mystery is that the reader should have enough information to feel they could work out who the murderer is, it's a difficult balancing act to get that satisfying resolution or surprise just close enough to the end of the book. Here it didn't quite work, I felt. The storyline was too predictable: I knew who the murderer was well in advance of the reveal. That said, the ending for the Lacey-Raisin plot-line caught me by surprise.
Although it is part of a series, I think that it could be read as a stand-alone; what backstories and references to previous books there are, shouldn't detract too much from the enjoyment of the novel as a whole. But for the full Agatha Raisin experience, it would be better to start from 'The Quiche of Death' and read the books in sequence. I don't think this is the best Agatha Raisin book I've read, but fans shouldn't skip it as it contains a lot of important happenings for the main characters.
Personally I wouldn't *buy* the Agatha Raisin books as they're not ones I'd re-read time & again, but I do enjoy them for a light read out of the library.
Product details (as available from Amazon):
# Paperback: 272 pages
# Publisher: Robinson Publishing; paperback / softback edition (25 Mar 2010)
# Language English
# ISBN-10: 1849011370
# ISBN-13: 978-1849011372
# Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 11 x 2 cm