Hiss and Hers: An Agatha Raisin Mystery by M. C. Beaton (St. Martin’s Press, $24.99, 304 pages)
“Yes,” said Agatha, acidly noting the plain hairstyle and fine wrinkles on Mrs. Freemantle’s face and wondering why she, Agatha, has wasted so much money on hairdressing and nonsurgical facelifts, not to mention a whole new wardrobe, all to lure George.
This book is one of an extensive collection of English mysteries centered around an aging, though not really older, lady detective. As is usually the situation, Agatha has her own wealth and runs a detective agency seemingly as a hobby rather than from financial need. Although Agatha is willing to work at staying attractive, she’s not likely to give up smoking and drinking. Throughout the book most of the characters were depicted pouring drinks, brewing tea and lighting cigarettes.
Enter George Marston, a retired military man who works as a handyman/gardener in the village where Agatha lives. George is distinguished looking and sought after by most of the ladies in the village, single and married. Sadly, Agatha seems to fail in her pursuit of George and she feels the need for a sure opportunity to corner him. A charity ball is her answer to the dilemma. Before Agatha’s big evening, George is found dead.
The real chase begins as Agatha takes on an assignment from George’s sister to find his killer. Agatha is brutally honest in her self-assessments as well as those that she makes of the various women whose lives intersected with George. To make matters more convoluted, Agatha has her ex-husband for a next-door neighbor and a former lover who has a key to her house that he uses whenever he wants her company.
“Oh, my mink,” mourned Agatha. “All those beautiful little vermin which were better on my back than depopulating the natural species of these islands.”
There are many non-PC comments and actions in the story, and that’s just fine. This is an English mystery for heaven’s sake!
A review copy was provided by the publisher. “Agatha Raisin (is an) irrepressible detective.” Library Journal
M. C. Beaton is also the author of the Hamish Macbeth Mystery series, which includes Death of a Chimney Sweep, earlier reviewed on this site.