"Busy Body" by M.C. Beaton
Minotaur, 278 pp., $24.99
Reviewed by David Marshall James
Agatha Raisin returns, right on "shej-YULE," as the British would say, and the accent is indeed on the "Yule" in author M.C. Beaton's twenty-first novel featuring the "infuriating, rude, pushy, but never boring" (in the words of someone who knows her well, Sir Charles Fraith) P.R. maven turned P.I. success.
Beaton makes merry (in the mystery fashion) from one Yuletide to the next, although Agatha's attempts to celebrate at the first one come to naught, so she throws in the red-and-green-fringed cup towel at the next.
Betwixt and between, there's a perplexing murder on La Raisin's plate, one for which she's hired on by the prime suspect, during the investigation for which one of her dear friends nearly bites the dust of an odd Cotswolds village wherein everyone seems to have a secret, and outsiders simply aren't appreciated.
Would that scare off the intrepid Agatha? Never! It's "Sod them all" and full Raisin steam ahead.
Beaton re-emerges in top-notch form in this well-plotted novel, with another murder and multiple intrigues interlacing the principal proceedings.
Or, should we say, Lacey-ing? As in, Agatha's ex-husband and the romance she's most reluctant to let burn down to ashes and be summarily swept from her memories.
However, he's mostly busy traversing foreign lands, immersed in research for his latest travel tome.
Aggie's no slouch in the travel department herein, either, stamping up her passport from Porto Vecchio to Philadelphia to the Riviera, although series fans will be pleased to hear that she remains mostly in and around her home village of Carsley, in the Cotswolds, and her office, in the nearby city of Mircester.
Beaton, as always, supplies plenty of truly scrumptious British argot as the ever-vain, ever-stubborn, ever-streetwise Agatha bulls her way toward solving her cases, flashing her "bear-like" eyes at those who dare block her path.
As ever, she's bound to bust her bum more than once in the process, providing the generous portion of laughs to be counted upon from any Raisin outing. A scene in a vicarage loo highlights the comedy.
Here's to the author and the "never boring" Mrs. Raisin, the shining star atop a "supremo" (to quote Beaton) mystery series.
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