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Agatha and Hamish

Agatha and Hamish

Just when you’re feeling a little depressed about the facts of life after a certain age – or about owning a business selling books in this day and age of e-blankety-blanks, Agatha Raisin comes along. Poor Agatha – and she is only 50, despairing at the discomfort of wearing stiletto heels, pancake make-up and tight power suits. Really! I somehow no longer feel so sorry for myself – I gave up all that stuff 30 years ago. As Agatha says, “I need a complete body transplant”. You can only laugh, and count the teeth you have left, along with your, few, other blessings.

There is no subtlety in these books but there is humour, mostly at Agatha’s expense. MC Beaton knows her audience well – I don’t think I’d tolerate any other novels so badly written – she must dash them off in the bath. But we all need some light-hearted drivel on occasion and these are perfect for those days when you just need a break from the challenges of real life.

And right now we have two new books from M.C. Beaton, Hiss and Hers, featuring the irrepressible Agatha Raisin and Death of Yesterday with her unassuming Highland policeman, Hamish Macbeth.

In the idyllic little Cotswold village where Agatha Raisin makes her home the women are lusting after the local gardener. Agatha is no exception, George Martson has been spending a lot of time in Agatha’s garden. The problem is, now that her garden has had so much work done by George, Agatha must find another way to keep him close. Ah ha! She’ll fund a gala charity ball so she can dance with him. Surely that will show him that Agatha is the woman he is looking for. Along the way she discovers she’s not the only woman in town with her eyes on George – and in fact others may have been meeting with more success in luring him into their beds than has Agatha. Undeterred, Agatha barges ahead in true Agatha fashion – and barges right into a murder investigation once again.

We follow along as Agatha manages to find even more trouble for herself, upsetting her friends and finally, as always, discovering the true identity of the murderer and barely escaping with her own life intact. Often not very self aware, there is enough of the realist in Agatha for her to see her own foibles with her readers all laughing right along with her.

Meanwhile it is June in the Highlands, the midges are out and the shops are out of insect repellent. And as Hamish Macbeth says, “ it never really gets dark in the night in the far north of Scotland, more a sort of pearly gloaming when – so the old people still believe – the fairies come out to lead unwary Highlanders astray”. Poor Hamish is once again in love – this time with a young woman who may or may not be involved in a murder at a nearby factory. His former loves, journalist Elspeth Grant and the beautiful local rich girl, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, both reappear in this novel. One may become the first Mrs. Hamish Macbeth – or not. It is not as if Hamish really needs a wife – except for the obvious – as he has Dick Fraser looking after all of his household needs. And Dick is certainly not interested in being replaced by a wife – he is quite comfortable where he is thank you very much.

Murderers of course are never so easy to catch – and it seems there may be several in this case. This investigation takes Hamish to the Black Isle, so named because snow was supposed never to lie on it. The town of Cromarty, poised on the tip of the Black Isle, at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth, is the Highlands 'best preserved’ historic town. And, who knew, it is also the birthplace of yon detective Hamish Macbeth.

I am always more than a little embarrassed to admit that I read books by M C Beaton, but not only are there many of us in Parry Sound who read these novels, there are many, many, many in the United Kingdom. On a recent list of the most borrowed books in the UK, M C Beaton is third (after #1 James Patterson who just cranks them out with a writing team, and #2 Nora Roberts).

M C Beaton is the writing name of Marion Chesney, now 76 years old she seems as feisty as her Agatha and surely as persistent as Hamish. And, just imagine, so many of us buy her books that this author can afford to “divide her time between the Cotswolds and Paris”, poor dear.

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