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AGATHA RAISINAND A SPOONUL OF POISON
by M.C. Beaton
Constable , October 2008
206 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 1845296478


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Against her better judgement and inclinations Agatha Raisin is persuaded to get involved with organising the village fete at Comfrey Magna; her main reason for being so persuaded is that she likes the look of one of the other organisers. She soon regrets her decision however when things go horribly wrong; someone spikes the jam in the jam-making competition with LSD and two villagers die as a result. Agatha's investigations into the crime take her deep into the lives of various villagers in Comfrey Magna and distract her from running her detective agency.

This is the nineteenth book in the Agatha Beaton series, one which I know has legions of fans, some of them devoted; it would probably be advisable for such readers to stop reading now, though nothing I say here is likely to affect the sales or success of the author. I also want to qualify my remarks by saying that this is not some kind of 'anti-cosy' diatribe; I am a considerable fan of the sub-genre when well done. This being said, this book was undoubtedly the worst I read in 2008 (and it had some serious competition). There a good deal of humour is obviously intended here but the humour is neither good-natured nor pleasing. I suppose one might call it black humour but when applied to such derisory targets black humour becomes merely acrid (one would compare the black humour of Ruth Dudley Edwards that is always directed at institutions). The central character herself is immensely annoying and manages to make even the points on which I agree with her (such as the smoking ban) become tiresome by their endless repetition. The other characters never rise above cliche and the sociological and political observation is of a commonplace and repetitive quality.

However the central problem, and one by which all 'cosies' stand or fall to an even greater extent than other mysteries, is plot; here it is simply lamentable. I suppose one could award some sort of credit for the book having what is, to me, a new motive. But this motive is so flimsy and absurd as to make the idea of plot itself a mockery. I reiterate that my dislike for this book is not based on any animus regarding cosies; if you want to try a decent modern British cosy then read Caroline Graham, Catherine Aird, Hazel Holt or R.T. Raichev, virtually unknown in Britain. This book is for fans of the series and author alone.

Reviewed by Nick Hay, January 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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