The festive cover suggested that I was in for some light-hearted fun. I was halfway right – M.C. Beaton’s novel was an enjoyable read, but also a little darker than I expected!
For those of you that have never read any of this series, the heroine Agatha, is a middle-aged detective with her own private agency in the Cotswolds. All very cosy you would think, but just a few pages into the book someone gets knifed and dies dramatically in full view of half the village! The victim is a busy body health and safety officer with a bit of a dark history of his own. No one seems to care much that he has been bumped-off, in fact most of the inhabitants are glad that he is not going to be around to meddle in their business. And, that’s just the start of things. Quite a few people pop their clogs before the final page is turned.
I was instantly drawn to Agatha as a character and loved the descriptions of her especially her ‘bear-like’ eyes. She came across as slightly crabby, but interesting and generally kind-hearted. I enjoyed the slightly shocking element of gruesome murders happening in a picturesque English village, and the cold indifference of the villagers. Beaton actually paints a pretty a harsh picture of humanity cleverly offset against a cosy setting.
The downside of the book for me, was that The Busy Body is set over a period of over a year and at times, I just felt that the plot was too drawn out. I actually took quite a while to read it despite it being little over two hundred pages long. I can’t say that I was gripped. I was also expecting a bit more festive fun from the snowy cover image! Coming to Agatha Raisin twenty-one books into the series probably didn’t help. Perhaps this is not the best one, and I may have missed-out from not knowing the background of the different characters and subplots.
Lovers of the series will most likely really enjoy this. I was entertained by the situation and M.C. Beaton’s pithy style, but felt that the plot was missing some oomph somewhere. Having said that, now I have been introduced to Agatha Raisin who I found an entertaining heroine, I would still like to read some of the earlier books and will be looking out for The Quiche of Death in the library.
Have you read any of the Agatha Raisin books? What mysteries do you recommend reading at Christmas?