agatha raisin & the haunted house – m c beaton
I picked this up as an audiobook from Audible when they were doing a 2 for 1 sale on a selection of titles, I had some credits to use and it sounded quite fun. However, I did NOT realise that it is apparently number 14 in a series of Agatha Raisin books.
It was read by the ever wonderful Penelope Keith, who apparently played Agatha in the BBC adaptations of the stories – something else that seems to have totally passed me by (and I love a good radio series, I do!)
Agatha is a self-styled sleuth, based in the sleepy Cotswolds. I am thinking Miss Marple, but somewhat updated. Alhough Agatha is early middle-aged, she doesn’t come across as completely dowdy, and can have a bit of a mouth on her.
She’s a really great character, and although the book stands alone pretty well (I didn’t lose what was going on through any of it, as each of the characters that had obviously been in previous stories were given enough of a quick back-story with context to see how they fit in) part of me wished that I had started the books from the beginning, just so that I could see her character grow. I know I can go back and read them, but I know where she ends up, so there’s some mystery taken out of it all.
Anyway, an old woman in the next village is complaining about strange goings-on in her house – she swears that it is haunted. Agatha is vaguely interested, but it is only when her new next door neighbour, the rather dashing Paul Chatterton asks her to go along and investigate that her interest is really piqued.
After their visit, Agatha and Paul think someone is obviously just messing around – either kids, or the woman herself for attention, and don’t think much more of it…until the old lady is found dead.
This is quite a lovely gentle book – part detective novel and part a commentary on English village life, and I was totally won over by it. And Penelope Keith’s narration just made it all that more appealing! My only gripe really was that there was far too much time spent on describing Agatha’s various outfits and how much make-up she did or didn’t have on. I am guessing that it was to show that even though Agatha was a bit of a hard-ass on the outside, she had the same self-doubt, image-issues and romantic inclinations as almost every woman in the world.
If you’re interested in a bit of light, well-written entertainment, give Agatha a go – the series starts with The Quiche of Death.