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Wednesday 30 December 2015

‘Agatha Raisin Dishing the Dirt’ by M.C. Beaton

Published by Constable,
1 October 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-47211-720-5

Agatha Raisin is a successful, self-made woman, who has every reason to be proud of what she has achieved, including her flourishing detective agency. However, Agatha is still painfully insecure about many things, especially about her origins in a Birmingham slum, brought up by alcoholic parents. Therapist Jill Davent has targeted Agatha ever since Jill moved to the village of Carsely, even going so far as to employ a private detective to research Agatha's origins. To make matters worse, Jill is romancing Agatha's ex-husband, James, and counselling a woman that Agatha is convinced is a murderess, even though she escaped the consequences of her crimes. Agatha makes no secret of her opinion that the world would be a better place without Jill Davent in it, which makes her an obvious suspect when Jill is found strangled.

Fortunately, Jill's far from pure past soon gives the police many more suspects, especially as the death toll swiftly rises. Agatha calls in all the resources of her detective agency and other friends to investigate the crime, but soon it becomes clear that Agatha's determination to discover the truth has made her the killer's next target.

This is the 26th book featuring Agatha Raisin. In it, as always, Agatha is investigating murders and finding herself in danger, as well as pursuing any attractive man she encounters, in the pathetic (and dwindling) hope that she will, at last, achieve the perfect romantic relationship. The charm of the Agatha Raisin books lies in the humour and in the friendships that she has formed with the many characters that crop up book after book. Agatha can be selfish, self-indulgent and devious, but she is also clever, intuitive and determined, with many flashes of true kindness and generosity. Her warm relationship with her friends in the village and elsewhere, and her staff at the detective agency, and their reciprocal affection for her, is one of the strong points of the book. The plot has many twists and turns and clever false clues and concludes with an extremely ingenious but fair solution. Those unacquainted with the series may prefer to start with some of the earlier books, as the plot of Dishing the Dirt gives away things that happen in previous books including the solution of one earlier book.
Dishing the Dirt is an enjoyable, easy-to-read, comedy crime; a perfect book to relax with on a dark winter's evening.
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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