"Hiss and Hers" by M.C. Beaton
Reviewed by David Marshall James
"Snakes and ba----ds!"
That's one of British P.I. Agatha Raisin's favorite phrases. Much to her misfortune, she's facing more than a few of the former in her latest case.
The handsome gardener who caught her fancy in the previous Agatha Raisin mystery isn't long for the ground himself.
At least he goes out with a metaphorical smile on his face, having dillied and dallied with more than a few of Agatha's neighbors in the Cotswold village where she resides when not running her agency in the much-larger locale of Mircester.
The gardener's death is gruesome, involving a trio of adders, but at least he was drugged and transported before being, well, planted.
Agatha-- as fond of her facial paints and powders as she is of her gin and tonic-- feels a right fool for having tarted herself up with too-high heels and revealing dresses in order to entice the now-deceased.
Nevertheless, she's going to feel heaps worse before this latest mystery is resolved, what with spurned former paramours of the victim practically heaving themselves under Agatha's feet, like worms after a rainstorm.
However, Agatha's in the detective trade for keeps. She doesn't need the money-- the agency is the result of her dull early retirement-- as much as she thrives on the excitement. Moreover, she has one-upped the Mircester constabulary more times than she can count, certainly more than they care to recall.
British author M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin mysteries always snap to the reader's attention, with plot points great and small, often pertaining to the protagonist's personal life, or to those of her agency employees, who compose a fine supporting cast.
Agatha grew up on "Hard Scrabble Way" in Birmingham before founding a prosperous London P.R. firm, where she dealt with hordes of would-be and bona-fide celebrities.
She's about as well-suited to life in a Cotswold village as Miss Marple is to residing above a West Hollywood disco. Yet, she has gained the sympathetic ear (often over dry sherry, thank you) of the local vicar's wife, Mrs. Bloxby, although her husband is often heard to exclaim, "Get rid of that Raisin woman!"
Still, one taste of the delightfully foibled Agatha, and you'll probably be hooked. Beaton has written almost two-dozen of these mysteries, along with two other series, being a "mature woman" herself. If you're already an "Aggie-phile"-- or just an Anglophile-- this latest novel rates high among Beaton's plentiful offerings.
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