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Don't Begin Your Reading of the Agatha Raisin Series with This Book!
am 13. August 2007
If read as a standalone, this book would be a two or three-star effort for most readers. But if read in sequence, Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell provides unusually satisfying mysteries to solve and excellent character development that will make you glad you are a fan.
For almost the entire series, Agatha Raisin has been attracted to James Lacey and the idea of having romantic male companionship. It's never quite clear how much is the one attraction versus the other. Agatha's friend, co-detective, and sometime lover, Sir Charles Fraith, has been so concerned that he insisted that Agatha seek an analyst to secure a cure.
In recent series books, James Lacey has become ever more inaccessible and irritating. That tendency reaches its acme in Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell after James and Agatha marry at the end of Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam. James flies off the handle if Agatha shows her usually messy ways (such as by turning his laundry pink by not sorting the colors), her lack of skill in the kitchen (with her preference for cheap microwaved foods), or her smoking. He often storms out without further explanation.
Agatha feels diminished by James's constant disapproval and carping. Beyond that, James is keeping a large secret away from Agatha. Naturally, Agatha is cut to the quick when she learns that others know.
In a fit of pique, Agatha takes on a temporary PR assignment with a local company . . . and drives a deeper wedge into the marriage. James and Agatha are soon living separate lives in their respective cottages . . . and spending time with sympathetic members of the opposite sex, creating even more hurt.
Something has to give and it does. Agatha is pulled away from her PR triumph to find that James's cottage is open with blood everywhere. But there's no James. Soon his bloody car is also located. As Agatha investigates, she finds out many unpleasant facts about James that make her doubt the wisdom of marriage even more.
There are cameos of James after he leaves the cottage, but those cameos raise more questions than they answer until near the book's end.
Soon, James's former lover, Melissa Sheppard is found dead by Agatha. Convinced that James being missing and this death are related, Agatha pushes her investigation in both directions with the help of Sir Charles Fraith. But progress is slow: She mainly discovers a lot of very undesirable people . . . many of whom seem to have good motives for killing Melissa, but none for James.
The red herring clues point in all directions and create a satisfying mystery to solve for most of the book. You'll tumble onto the solution before Agatha will, but only because M. C. Beaton gives you lots of hints just before the solution is revealed.
But the biggest mystery of all is what will happen to Agatha and her marriage. M. C. Beaton keeps you hanging until almost the end on that one.
Those who enjoy the Agatha Raisin series for its humor, wit, and drollery will be disappointed in this book. It's a serious mystery that looks mostly at the dark side. But if you are open to more than one style of mystery, Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell will be one of your favorite Agatha Raisin books (along with Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death).
As you read the book, think about how much or how little you know about the people in your life. Open up!