Author: M.C. Beaton
In the sleepy town of Carslie, our 26th (ok, probably more like 30th) serial killer is steadily thinning the herd and only Agatha Raisin can stumble her way into a solution. This time, it’s the neighborhood therapist who has been scamming clients, romancing Agatha’s ex, and spreading dirt about Agatha herself. And Agatha, with her loudmouth, threatened to kill the woman the day before she showed up strangled.
Agatha, however, isn’t a suspect for long. Mostly because the bodies really start to stack up here. It is literarily impossible to keep up with all the corpses (bring out your dead!) and their in-life connections to one another and the unfortunate therapist. As Agatha wades through the seas of bodies, she longs for romance (and is thwarted), has her continual on-again off-again friendships, talks about smoking and stopping smoking, bewails her age, and occasionally, accidentally, blunders into a clue or two. It’s the same formula as the previous 26 books. If you’ve followed it this long, then you’re in for more of the same. If you’re new to this series, start at the beginning!! You won’t like book 26.
Nothing much is new here. Why this formula has kept working for me, why I care about these ultimately terrible and unsympathetic people, I really don’t know. There is a kind of magic still here, I suppose, and despite being the literal murder capital of the world, Carslie does have that quaint village charm I’ve grown to love. As a bonus, we also get the tiniest amount of character development for Charles, one of my old favorites. James Lacey, one of my least favorites, is mostly absent.
The stories in the last several books have been getting increasingly complicated. More so than necessary, really, and the relationships between the killer and his or her stack of victims are becoming more bizarre and left field. That being said, while none of this is remotely believable, and the clues really aren’t there (the way Agatha figures it out is purely incidental), it’s still pretty good. High level – more telling than showing – but still kind of an interesting twist. What can I say, I got into it. I had trouble keeping up with all the suspects, and didn’t really care who did it, but I was along for the journey all the way.
The last several books have started to do this bizarre epilogue. Now, epilogues are usually one or two pages of the “they lived happily ever after stuff,” but MC Beaton has been doing something entirely different with Agatha of late. The epilogue is a book in and of itself, and it takes a goodly hour to read (or listen to on Audible). The actual answer – and Agatha’s usual near misses – are contained in the epilogue and several entirely new stories begin, no doubt to be carried into the next book. It doesn’t feel like a complete story at all. It really isn’t. It’s a snapshot in time of Agatha that just so happens to have some murders and an investigation. It’s weird, but we’re used to it by now and know not to lapse into indolence for a “quick” epilogue.
Overall, Dishing the Dirt has all the same glories and foibles as the last several books. It’s the same formula, with different names and a significantly higher body count. If you liked the last books, you’ll probably like this one even more, since the author seems to have put more effort into it. If you haven’t enjoyed the last several books, then you should avoid this one.
– Frances Carden
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