I had never read an Agatha Raisin mystery before I agreed to participate in the anniversary celebration for the 25th book in M.C. Beaton's series featuring her. Beaton's The Blood of an Englishman may exemplify the cozy mystery. But, in some ways, she also turns some of the tropes on their head. Agatha Raisin smokes, drinks, hates tea, heads up her own private detective agency (without a license), and is man-crazy. None of those sweet romances in a cozy mystery for Beaton. It's actually a fun, refreshing change.
Agatha Raisin also hates amateur theatrics, but agrees to attend a local production of Babes in the Woods with her friend, Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar's wife. She finds nothing to recommend the play, except the play's producer, Gareth Craven, who is handsome. When the police cars start to gather after the play, though, Agatha realizes there was something to attract her attention. Bert Simple, the local baker who played the ogre, had disappeared down a trapdoor, and never appeared for the ovation. It seems he was murdered in a particularly gruesome fashion as he exited via that trapdoor.
Gareth Craven, heading the list of suspects, asks Agatha to investigate. To her disgust, she learns that every handsome man involved in the case seems to be infatuated with Gwen Simple, the baker's wife. And, there are times during the lengthy investigation when Agatha just loses interest. "Agatha Raisin, when she was not obsessed with some man or other, became de-energized." It's that predatory interest, though, that leads to a few interesting clues, and a few terrorizing moments for Agatha, before she discovers the unsavory solution.
I've read comments from others who say they tire of Agatha Raisin's obsession with men. I found it funny, and a change from the behavior of sleuths in other cozy mysteries. I appreciated the length of time it took to solve the case. It wasn't wrapped up in a couple days. And, I enjoyed a more mature sleuth, one with a few idiosyncrasies.
If you're like me, and haven't read an Agatha Raisin mystery before, don't hesitate to pick up the twenty-fifth book in the series. There's a reason the series has gone on that long. The latest book is an entertaining mystery. The Blood of an Englishman is a fun introduction to the cranky, lovable, needy Agatha Raisin.
M.C. Beaton's website is www.MCBeaton.com
The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton. Minotaur Books. 2014. ISBN 9780312616267 (hardcover), 304p.
Note: Don't forget this week's giveaway of three copies of The Blood of an Englishman. Details on Monday's blog.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book so I could participate in the anniversary celebration and giveaway.