By: M.C. Beaton
Jilted at the alter when her presumably dead ex-husband reappears, Agatha is now off to Cyprus in pursuit of James Lacey, her cold ex-fiancé. Taking a break from seeking her love, Agatha lets her guard down for a pleasant cruise only to become involved with two groups of tourists: the one is a snobbish couple and the second a middle-class group of wealthy tourists lead by the ever flirtatious Rose. Falling into the lure of the dreamy vacation world, Agatha is far more concerned about her waning love life than her companions’ intrigues – that is until Rose is craftily stabbed to death at her dinner table. Reunited with an austere and foreboding James, Agatha is determined that the solution to the murder will lead them ever closer. Instead, Agatha engages the killer’s attention while also attempting to thwart an unlikely love affair with an amorous baronet.
The sixth in the Agatha Raisin cozy mystery series, the exotic location combined with Agatha’s thwarted emotional state engages readers in a titillating read of murder, mayhem, and vacation hell. While Agatha’s teenage crush on Lacey has been a long going staple of this series, the dynamic begins to evolve here when Agatha attains an honest friend and the unwanted advice of certain Carsley ladies. This adds enough of the “new” to her on again, off again relationship to keep readers interested and hoping for final realization.
Agatha’s tumultuous emotions are themselves relatable, and her very brokenness after the dissolution of her pending marriage is enough to reunite readers whole heartedly with our hard-bitten yet softening, chain-smoking heroine.
While no longer in the cozy Cotswolds, Cyprus proves an excellent location. The interactions between Agatha and the locals, her amazement and wonder at the ruins blistering in the sun, the cerulean hue of the water, all set against the surreal dreaminess of the heat prove cozy and atmospheric in a different way, mixing everything up a little while keeping the readers fully engaged in the lives of Agatha and friends.
Sir Charles Fraithwait plays a more major role in Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist, adding to the characterization of the piece and the dynamics of social interaction between a growing cast. Well introduced, Fraithwait provides an interesting blend to the mystery and proves a potential sleuthing companion.
Atmosphere and characterization are in top form in this delivery – but what of the mystery? A delicious little vacation murder, especially of a dislikable tart, is sure to turn up a great deal of suspects, each with their own festering resentments and jealousies. The plot is ever thickening as the unlikely tourist crowd forges into one suspicious unit – any of them with a possible motive to murder an inquiring Agatha. When more bodies begin to appear, the speculation deepens. Agatha learns from past confrontations and cases, leading to a more careful revelation with some unexpected, albeit sobering, effects. The mystery is rich and the clues prolific. The joy is more in the interweaving of mystery with cozy atmosphere and characterization, but the actual sleuthing remains a strong and engaging part, bolstering this cozy with some good who-dunnit-clues.
I picked up the audiobook edition read by Donada Peters. Some editions available now are read by Penelope Keith, another fantastic narrator. Peters and Keith’s voices have both become synonymous with Agatha and her world, and while I have read a few kindle additions, I find that the audiobooks come even more alive and enhance the experience by giving an over-the-coffee-cups, close, and conversational tone. Highly recommended.
– Frances Carden