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Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham - M.C. Beaton

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Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: M.C. Beaton / Edition: paperback / softback / Paperback / 256 Pages / Book is published 2006-04-27 by Robinson Publishing

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      19.05.2009 10:25
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      An entertaining read, but sloppily written

      Amateur detective Agatha Raisin is having a bad hair day and so tries a new hairdresser in Evesham - Mr John. She comes away, not only with a lovely hair-do, but also a crush on Mr John, who seems to like her too. Before long, however, she is aware that Mr John has a number of conquests and that there seems to be something dodgy about him. Before she can investigate further, Mr John dies horribly, having been poisoned. Determined to work out what he was up to before his death, and why he was killed, Agatha sets out, with the help of her friend, Sir Charles Fraith to find the truth.

      I have read a number of books in this series now and feel as though I know Agatha Raisin rather better than I need to. She is a middle-aged woman, who once owned a successful PR company, and has now retired to the Cotswolds. Unable to live a peaceful life though, she begins to investigate crimes that she miraculously manages to come across. Blunt and to the point, she upsets a lot of people, yet somehow always manages to come out trumps, usually with the help of one of her 'friends', in this case, Sir Charles Fraith. She has an on-off love affair with her neighbour, James Lacey, who doesn't really appear in this book - but Agatha has a brief fling with Charles and Mr John to keep her going in any case!

      As a character, Agatha is entertaining. Far from being perfect, she often feels lonely and inadequate, although she tries very hard not to let anyone else see that. Probably for that reason, it is easy to connect with her. She can occasionally be annoying, mainly because she acts impulsively, but generally, she is amusing and it is fun to see what she is going to get up to next. The love affair with James Lacey is a good ploy on the part of author M C Beaton to keep the reader's interest, although I have to admit I'm getting a bit tired of it now - they have been on and off too many times for my liking - and I am glad that the author decided to give him a rest in this book. As far as character development goes, I don't think that anything new is added to Agatha's story, but she is so well established by now (this is the eighth book) that it doesn't really matter.

      Other characters in the book are incredibly one-dimensional. There is Mrs Bloxby, the vicar's wife, who is good. Most of the other women in the book are nasty pieces of work that absolutely deserve all that comes to them, be it blackmail or murder. The men are generally all nasty, money-grabbing, using idiots that are too stupid for their own good - and that includes Sir Charles Fraith! This is light-hearted crime fiction, so I don't really expect any great depth in this characters, but having said that, it is all becoming a little bit samey now and I would like to see M C Beaton take a slightly different angle in future books, otherwise, I can't see that the marketplace is going to keep reading.

      I have never been a big fan of M C Beaton's writing style. It is never going to win any literary prizes, but that's not really the problem - this is very light-hearted crime fiction and long, pretentious words would be out of place. However, the more of the series I read, the more I think that they read as if they have been written in a day. The writing just feels incredibly sloppy. I could forgive it if this was just a one-off, but it's been a problem with several of the books I have read recently and I am beginning to tire of it. There is no excuse for bad writing and I am frankly surprised that her publisher is letting her get away with it. It didn't completely ruin the book for me, but it did have an impact of my enjoyment of it.

      The story is, as always, very silly. Situations are forced to fit in with it and Agatha has an amazing habit of being in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time. The way the police act is totally random and very strange. WhileI don't think anyone in their right mind is going to read this type of book and expect it to all make sense, I do think that a little more thought could have been put into the telling of the story. Because of the sloppy writing, it often feels rushed. Light-hearted fiction still needs to be carefully thought out and in this case, I think the author has dropped the ball.

      This book isn't totally dreadful, but I think I'm probably saying that because I'm a long-term fan of the series. I'm not sure what a newcomer to the series would think if they started here though - earlier books are a bit stronger. It is still entertaining, and it is ideal for beach reading or when you're feeling low and want something silly to read. However, I really do think M C Beaton needs to spend a little more time planning and writing than she seems to have done with this book. Two stars out of five.

      The book is available from play.com for £4.99. Published by Constable & Robinson, it has 256 pages. ISBN: 9781845293208

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