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Saturday 10 January 2015

‘The Blood of an Englishman’ by M.C. Beaton

Published in UK by Constable,
16 October 2014.
ISBN: 9781849019767
(Published in US by Minotaur Books)

Agatha Raisin accepts that being a part of village life involves self-sacrifice, like yielding to her friend Mrs Bloxby's appeal to attend the amateur pantomime at Winter Parva, a village near their own village of Carsley, even though she loathes pantomime. Of course Agatha should have known better than to return to an entertainment at such an ill-omened village; in the past she had investigated a particularly gruesome death here. Agatha is resigned to boredom until Bert Simple, the actor playing the ogre, disappears down the trapdoor on stage and meets a particularly unpleasant death.

Agatha's detective agency is employed by Gareth Craven, the producer of the show, to investigate the murder of Bert, the local baker. Bert was unpopular in the village but everybody describes his beautiful wife, Gwen, as 'a saint;' at least all the local men see her in this way. As always the local police are less than impressed by Agatha's intervention, most of them resent her nosiness, although Agatha's friend, Bill Wong is concerned about her safety.

Despite the efforts of Agatha's detective agency and the police, the death toll and the danger mount higher and Agatha finds herself facing the threat of an exceedingly unpleasant death.

This is the 25th book in the Agatha Raisin series and the black comedy is as lively as ever. The cast of staple characters make welcome reappearances, including the staff from the detective agency, people from the village or the ex-lovers that Agatha has managed to stay on good terms with. One of the strengths of the series is that Agatha has grown and become a far more likeable character than the woman who had first arrived in the village of Carsley some years (and many murder investigations) ago. I found this book great fun and would recommend it as a very enjoyable read.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

 M.C. Beaton was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1936 and started her first job as a bookseller in charge of the fiction department in John Smith & Sons Ltd. While bookselling, by chance, she got an offer from the Scottish Daily Mail to review variety shows and quickly rose to be their theatre critic. She left Smith’s to join Scottish Field magazine as a secretary in the advertising department, without any shorthand or typing, but quickly got the job of fashion editor instead.  She then moved to the Scottish Daily Express where she reported mostly on crime. This was followed by a move to Fleet Street to the Daily Express where she became chief woman reporter. After marrying Harry Scott Gibbons and having a son, Charles, Marion went to the United States where Harry had been offered the job of editor of the Oyster Bay Guardian. When that didn’t work out, they went to Virginia and Marion worked as a waitress in a greasy spoon on the Jefferson Davies in Alexandria while Harry washed the dishes. Both then got jobs on Rupert Murdoch’s new tabloid, The Star, and moved to New York. Anxious to spend more time at home with her small son, Marion, urged by her husband, started to write Regency romances. After she had written over 100 of them under her maiden name of Marion Chesney and getting fed up with 1811 to 1820, she began to write detectives stories. On a trip from the States to Sutherland on holiday, a course at a fishing school inspired the first Hamish Macbeth story. They returned to Britain and bought a croft house and croft in Sutherland where Harry reared a flock of black sheep. But Charles was at school, in London so when he finished and both tired of the long commute to the north of Scotland, they moved to the Cotswolds where Agatha Raisin was created.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.

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