Friday, April 28, 2017

Review of "Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden" by M.C. Beaton

After a vengeful hairdresser washes Agatha Raisin's hair with dipilatory rather than shampoo, the partially bald amateur detective - embarassed to be seen in her Carsely village - goes to Wyckhadden for a vacation. Agatha checks into the Garden Hotel, whose only residents are a coterie of elderly retirees who like to gossip and play Scrabble. Agitating about her unsightly head, Agatha is advised to consult Francie Juddle - a Wyckhadden psychic ('witch') who also sells revitalizing potions. Agatha visits Francie and purchases hair restorer and - just for kicks - a small bottle of love potion.

For fun, Agatha arranges for Francie to conduct a séance for the elderly residents of the Garden Hotel. The session doesn't go well and Francie is soon found battered to death in her cottage. Before you can say abracadabra Francie's daughter Janine takes over the 'clairvoyance' business.....and she's soon found dead as well. The police investigation is led by Inspector Jimmy Jessop, a nice-looking widower. Agatha offers to help with the inquiries, but Jimmy puts her off.

Nevertheless, Jimmy finds Agatha attractive and asks her out. After a short time Agatha and Jimmy become a couple, but anyone familiar with the sleuth knows her romance probably won't go smoothly - especially because Agatha is still in love with her neighbor, James Lacey.

Meanwhile, Agatha obsesses over the murders and becomes convinced one of the retirees at the hotel is the killer. Unfortunately Agatha can't get anyone to talk about the crimes, so there's very little 'detective work' in the story. For the most part Agatha either spends time with Jimmy or socializes with the hotel residents: going to dances and plays; having drinks in the hotel or pub; playing Scrabble; helping the ladies get makeovers; etc. Mostly, this is a 'life in the village' story - where residents socialize; form relationships; get jealous; have arguments; and so forth.

At the story's climax Agatha gets an epiphany that helps her solve the murders, but the solution is more 'deus ex machina' than brilliant detective work.

When I pick up an Agatha Raisin book I know what to expect: Agatha obsesses over her appearance; has embarassing dalliances with men; gets a visit from her friend Charles - a notorious sponger who always forgets his wallet; moons about James; talks with her friend Mrs. Bloxby (the vicar's wife); etc. In that vein, the book doesn't disappoint. It's a pleasant diversion, and Agatha Raisin fans would probably enjoy it.

Rating: 3 stars

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