"There Goes the Bride" by M.C. Beaton: Book Review

"There Goes the Bride" by M.C. Beaton
Minotaur, 277 pages, $24.99
Reviewed by David Marshall James

When Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum reaches her mid 50s, she'll probably be a lot like M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin, veteran of twenty mystery novels.

As Aggie could inform Steph, she'll no longer be turning the head of a good-looking, eligible bachelor, much less two of them. Instead of throwing on jeans and a T shirt, she'll be vainly tottering on too-high heels, packing on face creams and powders, and forking out for frequent touch-ups on her hair tinting.

However, the diet will still be grab-on-the-go: With Agatha, it's pub lunches, Chinese, and frozen curries. Speaking of pubs-- the Red Lion is the local one in Agatha's home village of Carsely, in the English Cotswolds-- this novel features an hysterical subplot in which Agatha saves the Red Lion.

Seems what Agatha protests as "the nanny state"-- she's never short of a pungent criticism or observation-- is resulting in the closure of many public houses across the United Kingdom, as the smoking ban is keeping ciggie lovers at home in droves.

Agatha, a former P.R. maven and confirmed nicotine addict, spearheads a fundraiser to construct a "smoker friendly" addition to the rear of of the public house.

Such subplots speed the book along, while the main storyline involves the murder of Agatha's ex-husband's, James Lacey's, trophy-wife-never-gonnabe on their wedding day. Readers will recall that James ditched Agatha because he wanted to become a monk. Instead of pursuing that dream to its cloistered close, he settled on being a travel writer, currently working on a guidebook to historic battlefields.

The protagonist and all her employees at the P.I. agency in Mircester have been invited, as much to fill up the groom's side of the church as to chuck sursies onto the pile at the gifts table.

Agatha, at first a prime suspect, is soon hired by the bride's mother to investigate the case-- at least for a short while. That Aggie-- she can get too nosy, upending everyone's dirty secrets.

As usual, author Beaton has Aggie hoping and hopping through many romantic misadventures, ranging from the merely embarassing to the truly perilous. Even her young protegee, Toni Gilmour, winds up entangled with the wrong sort of chap.

Beaton's Agatha Raisin mysteries dish up a tasty mix of character, plot, and setting. The solution to the main storyline herein could scarcely qualify as a head-scratcher, yet it affords plenty of action, and the aforementioned subplots help the novel add up to yet another delightful outing in this series.

Although not as uproarious as Stephanie Plum, Agatha Raisin provides her own fun, and gobs of it. Moreover, any British mystery that ends with the word "sherry" has got to be worth a lookie-loo.

* * *