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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

‘Pushing Up Daisies’ by M.C. Beaton

Published by Constable,
13 April 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-4721-1734-2 (PB)

In the latest book in the long-running series, Agatha Raisin is still more successful in detection than she is in love. All the same, she is astonished to find that she is jealous of her best friend, Mrs Bloxby, the vicar’s wife. Agatha had set out to fascinate Gerald Devere, a retired detective who has just moved to the village, but Gerald seems more interested in Mrs Bloxby, who has abandoned her usual dreary style of dressing and become very attractive. Nevertheless, Agatha fights back her jealousy and, accompanied by her friend Sir Charles Fraith, obliges Mrs Bloxby by visiting Lord Bellington, Carsley’s biggest landholder, to reason with him about his plans to turn the village allotments into a housing development. Lord Bellington is a very unpleasant man and rejects her arguments in a rude and aggressive manner.

When Lord Bellington dies suddenly, Agatha annoys Inspector Wilkes, head of the local CID when her suspicions about the cause of his death prove to be correct. Wilkes insists on treating Agatha as a suspect and discounts her explanation that her diagnosis was based on intuition and through watching a lot of real life crime on television.

The local crime wave continues when the body of Peta Currie, a newcomer to the village, is discovered buried in the allotments. Lord Bellington’s son employs Agatha’s detective agency to discover the truth about his father’s death but Agatha decides the two crimes are linked and investigates both.

The story continues with the usual mix of romantic disasters and investigative triumphs. Agatha’s village friends and her employees at the detective agency remain loyal and it is good to see the protective affection they feel for Agatha and she feels for them. These relationships are a very different matter to the hasty and unbalanced obsessions she has for the ‘loser and user’ type men that, as always, spark her dreams of a great romance.

I had a problem with the time in which Pushing Up Daisies was set. I had assumed that the book was contemporary, especially as there were several references to e-cigarettes, however, one of the pivotal scenes involved a fox hunt, which has been illegal in England since 2005.

Pushing Up Daisies is the 27th in the Agatha Raisin series and is great fun, with its characteristic mixture of zany black comedy and outrageous characters.
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  the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013.

Read a review of Carol’s latest book
The Fragility of Poppies

published 10 June 2016.

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