Something Borrowed, Someone Dead by M.C. Beaton is the 24th book in the Agatha Raisin mystery series set in the village of Carsely in the English Cotswolds (available September 17, 2013).
There’s something about a new M.C. Beaton mystery that reminds me of opening a festively wrapped Christmas gift. Both bring a big smile to my face and a little twinge of excitement because I don’t yet know what’s inside. Beaton (whose real name is Marion McChesney) is a very prolific writer, who has several series written under several pen names, in both the mystery and romance genres. It’s no surprise to me that the Agatha Raisin books are one her longest running series. They contain great characters, a picturesque setting, and a murder or two in each installment.
In Something Borrowed, Someone Dead, Agatha Raisin is her usual cranky and insecure self. Business is slow due to the recession, and she finds herself without much to work on. She sees a newspaper article about a murder in the small village of Piddlebury, and the bored part of her wants to investigate, but the businesswoman in her realizes she can’t take on an unpaid case. Her business sense wins out and she puts the murder out of her mind.
Soon after, though, she’s visited by Jerry Tarrant, who is head of the Piddlebury parish council, and he wants to hire her to solve the murder she read about in the paper, the poisoning of a woman named Gloria French. It seems that the village wants it cleared up fast and doesn’t want to wait for the police to figure things out. Agatha soon finds out that there was no love lost between Gloria and the rest of the village, mostly due to Gloria’s sticky fingers, and there are any number of possible suspects.
“What kind of person was Gloria French?” asked Agatha. “And please do speak ill of the dead if necessary.”
“She bought a house in the village a year ago and at first she seemed an exemplary woman. She read to the elderly and did their shopping for them, she raised money to restore the church, things like that. And then she developed a habit of borrowing things and refusing to give them back. Never anything very valuable, wineglasses for a party she was giving, scissors, a teapot and all sorts of bits and pieces. On her last day, she tried to borrow a bottle of sherry from one of the villagers.”
Agatha also finds out that the villagers easily close ranks and push away outsiders. She finds it very hard to get any of them to talk to her, even though she was hired by one of them. She finds that solving the case proves much more difficult than she expected and experiences a surprising level of hostility as she pokes around.
As she and Charles turned away, the woman shouted, “Get out of our village. No one wants you here!”
“This is mediaeval,” said Agatha. “They’ll be stoning us next.” She stopped short in the entrance to the Green Man. Their suitcases were packed and standing in the hall. Agatha stormed into the bar. “What is the meaning of this?” she demanded. “How dare you pack our things without our permission?”
“It’s like this,” said Moses awkwardly. “My trade depends on the villagers and they say unless you leave, they’re not going to come here anymore.”
“It’s against the law!” howled Agatha.
Moses leaned on the bar and looked at them sadly. “This is my place and if I say you’ve got to go, then that’s it.”
Of course. Agatha pushes on and solves the case, much to the surprise of the villagers. She makes up with her friends and co-workers, as her usual crankiness has caused a few harsh words to be spoken and hard feelings suffered.
M.C. Beaton is one of my favorite cozy authors, and her latest installment will not disappoint her fans. There’s just something about the characters and reading the books makes me feel like I’m visiting old friends. I laugh at Agatha’s insecurities and I enjoy finding out what’s new with Roy Silver and Charles Fraith. Then, when it’s all over, I can’t wait for the next one. I’m just happy that she writes the Hamish Macbeth series too, because I get to look forward to two new books each year.
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Kerry Hammond has been an avid mystery reader ever since she discovered Nancy Drew at the age of 8. She enjoys all types of stories, from thrillers to cozies to historical mysteries.