Today I am reviewing The Blood of an Englishman by M. C. Beaton.
About the book (from the publisher): “Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman.” Even though Agatha Raisin loathes amateur dramatics, her friend Mrs. Bloxby, the Vicar’s wife, has persuaded her to support the local pantomime. Stifling a yawn at the production of “Babes in the Woods,” Agatha watches the baker playing an ogre strut and threaten on the stage, until a trapdoor opens and the Ogre disappears in an impressive puff of smoke. Only he doesn’t re-appear at final curtain.
Surely this isn’t the way the scene was rehearsed? When it turns out the popular baker has been murdered, Agatha puts her team of private detectives on the case. They soon discover more feuds and temperamental behavior in amateur theatrics than in a professional stage show – and face more and more danger as the team gets too close to the killer.
My review: This is the 25th book in the Agatha Raisin series, a series that revolves around the title character, a former public relations executive now ensconced in a cottage in the Cotswolds. Her early adventures in crime solving led her to establish a private detective agency that she now runs in the heart of cozy Cotswold country.
I’ve read a few of the previous books in the series and I truly delight in Beaton’s depiction of Agatha Raisin. She has her flaws; she’s blunt, she blunders into situations without thinking, she’s vain, she absolutely has to have a crush on some man or she’s bored out of her mind, she can drive everyone around her crazy. But she’s endearing, just the same. And somehow, she always manages to solve the crime.
This book, which centers around a neighboring town and its amateur theatrical productions, is smartly plotted and quickly paced. The suspects consist of various townspeople; the blacksmith, the baker’s wife, the handsome young teacher, the town gossip. Beaton has a gift for giving the reader a vivid impression of a character with just a few well chosen words. She understands small-town life and, as a veteran of community theater in my youth, she definitely hits the ‘temperamental behavior’ nail on the head. Not that it’s restricted to amateur theatrics!
As always, Raisin is surrounded by her friends, her ex-husband (who lives in the cottage next door,) and her employees. all of whom are well used to her foibles. M.C. Beaton takes the Cozy English Mystery and tweaks it; she gives us a protagonist who can be irascible and not-so-lovable, whose blunders will make you chuckle, who is not Miss Marple. You’ll find yourself becoming quite fond of her; I am.
This book will be published on September 16, 2014.
About the author: M.C. Beaton has been hailed as the “Queen of Crime” (The Globe and Mail). Chosen as the British Guest of Honor at Boucheron 2006, she is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-four previous Agatha Raisin novels, the Hamish Macbeth series, and an Edwardian mystery series. Born in Scotland, she currently divides her time between Paris and the English Cotswolds.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for supplying an eGalley of this book in return for my honest review.
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