By M C Beaton
Constable (Constable & Robinson) - August 2002
ISBN: 1841195391 - HB
Contemporary Crime - Cotswolds, UK

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde,
Buy a US || UK Copy

Agatha Raisin is back for a second helping of adventure in the second of this delightful series. The tough ex-London public relations director is now settled in the cozy Cotswold village of Carsely and is setting her cap at her worried neighbor James Lacey. But there is a new man in town, attractive veterinarian Dr. Paul Bladen, and suddenly all the female pet owners can't get enough of visiting his surgery. Their ardour is short-lived, however, for he is soon found dead, accidentally injected with a lethal drug while administering same to Lord Pendlebury's horse. Of course, Agatha thinks it's murder and with an intrigued James Lacey in tow, she sets out to look for clues. Trouble is, if a murderer is truly at large, he or she won't take kindly to being investigated!

First published in the States back in 1993, this sequel to Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (also reviewed on this site) is less satirical and more a cozy mystery, but perhaps nonetheless entertaining for all that. M C Beaton does a nice job of juggling the twin elements of village whodunit with a realistic portrait of a modern businesswoman all at sea in the country who is forty-something and with no friends or family.

Agatha veers between intrepid investigator, desperate flirt and sometimes-weepy lonely woman with a startling accuracy, so there is realism amongst the fun. This falls down slightly when the village women do things like comfort her with flowers, but the bouts of fantasy are offset by the mystery itself (the solution of which I didn't guess) and the sudden jabs of satire which steal the show. Congratulations to M C Beaton for inventing this wonderfully three-dimensional character and congratulations to the publisher, Constable, for giving UK readers a chance to enjoy this sprightly series.

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