By MC Beaton
The incorrigible Agatha Raisin, brazen business woman, outspoken pillar of the village, and soon to be Mrs. Lacey has all her dreams dashed when her drunken ex-husband appears at her wedding with the news that they are indeed still married. Jilted by her horrified true love at the altar, Agatha’s world is falling apart – and now that her home has just sold, she also has nowhere to live. Having nearly committed polygamy, poor Agatha is in for more love-triangle problems when Jimmy Raisin, the money grubbing ex, is found strangled after confronting Agatha, the pair being witnessed by an early morning farmer with exceptional hearing. Agatha and James Lacey must come together in partnership again to prove their innocence – but is the flame of love really dead?
A very short cozy mystery, Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage weighs in at only 224 pages, following up the somewhat disappointing Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembly. Sacrificing mystery for atmosphere, Murderous Marriage is more about Agatha, her desire to love and be loved, and her distinctly teenage obsession with a man who simply, and obviously, does not want her. Similar to the word parlance and awkward conversations of sitcoms A Fine Romance and the early season or two of As Time Goes By, readers are a little tired by the formulaic nature of he loves me/he loves me not, yet intrigued by the dramatic emotional whirlwind of disappointed marriage hopes mixed with murder. While Agatha may have cried wolf over James for far too many novels, their convoluted relationship is now a staple of the series and used to full advantage and pathos in Murderous Marriage.
M.C. Beaton is in full form, cranking the cozy in this homicidal hotbed of English Cotswolds with not just one murder, but a serial rampage that stretches from Agatha’s sleazy ex to each person questioned within the ensuing investigation. The hunt for the truth, mostly overshadowed by relationship foibles and emotion perfectly captures the character driven nature that is so completely compelling in the cozy genre. Nevertheless, the mystery and sleuthing remains strong and reveals details of Agatha’s past history building depth of character and immersive story telling.
The mystery itself, although serpentine, is, unfortunately, quite easy to deduce and while enjoyment remains strong and readers engaged, the mystery isn’t among the strongest. In typical cozy fashion, it solves itself while Agatha and James are merely along for the ride. Regardless, readers are satisfied by the lulling beauty of the language, the way that the story pulls on our heart strings, and the completely immersive and comforting ambiance; perfect for a blustery winter day with a warm cup of coffee.
The audio book edition, read by Donada Peters is simply a must, her tone not only capturing our lovable but fractious Agatha, but embodying her. The voice is conversational and expressive, emphasizing the cozy mystery element while drawing on the warm atmosphere and the intellectual joy of a circuitous mystery.
A fast, enjoyable read and another energetic romp in one of my all-time favorite (and most-addictive) mystery series, Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage is a must for MC Beaton fans and all mystery lovers! Highly recommended.
- Frances Carden