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by M. C. Beaton
St Martin's Minotaur, November 2004
240 pages
ISBN: 0312304366

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Fans of Agatha Raisin will be absolutely delighted at this latest addition to the series. Ms Beaton has surpassed herself in THE DEADLY DANCE. Agatha is back in Carsely, a small village nestled in the Cotswolds, and has just opened her own detective agency.

She has the good fortune of being able to hire a retired police technician, a retired newspaper photographer, and Emma Comfrey, a retired civil servant who is now living in James Lacey's old home, as her secretary. When Ms Comfrey proves to be good at detection, Agatha has to hire someone else to be the secretary. Most of the jobs coming in to the agency are missing pets, or children; however, it isn't long before someone hires Agatha to solve an attempted murder.

As usual the police do not want Agatha involved with their investigation, even if it involves her own client. Detective Sergeant Bill Wong does what he can to keep the peace and one wonders if he wants to keep more than that?

Sir Charles Fraith has returned, as has Roy Silver, Agatha's one-time assistant when she was working in London. They are wonderful for Agatha to play off of, and when they both plan to stay with her at the same time it throws her into quite a muddle.

The characters are like dancers performing an intricate square dance as they take turns helping, then foiling, poor Agatha in her quest to find the attempted murderer. Those who are friends become foes, while the foes strive to become friends; and, before you can figure out who is doing what to whom, everything is turned upside down again.

Agatha finds herself falling in love with love again and this time it could cost her her life and maybe Sir Charles his as well. She constantly alienates her friends, all except of course the kind Mrs Bloxby, and finds that she has to spend a fortune to sort things out. Sir Charles, who has always made Agatha pay for their meals because he has forgotten his wallet, finally meets his match.

There are mad dashes to and from Paris, people who really aren't who they seem to be, sleeping policemen who really are the real thing, a showdown at high noon, and Agatha's cats scrambling for their lives. The reader barely catches his/her breath when it is announced that the village hall is burning. You just have to read to find out what that means now.

I loved the book and was pleasantly surprised that it had many levels to it which isn't the norm for an Agatha Raisin book. There are the odd misspelled words, or crooked page, and even words that are missing in sentences (usually following contractions), but I mark that up to a sloppy editor rather than sloppy writer.

Reviewed by Ginger K. W. Stratton, November 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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