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Saturday 28 July 2018

Agatha Raisin and the Witches Tree by MC Beaton

Published by Constable,
26 April 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-47211736-6 (PB)

The Witches Tree is the latest in the long running Agatha Raison series of books. It is, as all are, set in the beautiful Cotswolds.

This one begins on a deeply foggy Autumnal evening as the local vicar Rory Devere along with his wife, drive slowly home from a night at friends. As they strain to see the road in front of them in the severe weather conditions, they pull up sharply in front of a tree that has been struck by lightning. On closer inspection they see a body is hanging from the tree. The body belongs to a local spinster from the village, Margaret Darby.

Agatha Raison is a PI, and of late has had nothing but lost cats and mischievous husbands to keep her in business. She is delighted when the local vicar calls on her to help solve the murder.

The inhabitants of the village of Sumpton Harcart seem to be very private people and are not taking well to Agatha’s interference. Then two further murders occur. Agatha realises that she herself is in mortal danger when she uncovers the fact the fact that this village has a covert of witches.

As one would expect with any Agatha Raison mystery this book is light-hearted and pure fun. Her relationship with Charles features, as ever, and adds to make the story pure escapism.

Maybe, not her best Agatha Raison outing. But with such sharply observed and well- drawn characters, and the setting a village we could only dream to live in, it is always a joy to journey through her adventures. And with the holiday season right here, what better a time than now to lie in the garden and do just that. Agatha Raison books are on radio, and television and have sold in millions.
Reviewer: Linda Regan

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.

Linda Regan is the author of six police procedural crime novels. She is also an actress. She holds a masters degree in critical writing and journalism, and writes a regular column, including book reviews, for three magazines. She also presents the book-club spot on BBC Radio Kent. She is an avid reader and welcomes the chance to read new writers. 
  To read a review of Linda's most recent book
click on the title. 

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