Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Witches' Tree (Agatha Raisin #28) by M.C. Beaton: ARC Review


An Agatha Raisin Mystery #28


M.C. Beaton

Expected publication on October 3, 2017 by Minotaur Books
Hardcover and Kindle edition, 304 pages
Cozy Mystery


The Witches’ Tree continues the tradition in M. C. Beaton's beloved Agatha Raisin mystery series―now a hit T.V. show.

Cotswolds inhabitants are used to inclement weather, but the night sky is especially foggy as Rory and Molly Devere, the new vicar and his wife, drive slowly home from a dinner party in their village of Sumpton Harcourt. They strain to see the road ahead―and then suddenly brake, screeching to a halt. Right in front of them, aglow in the headlights, a body hangs from a gnarled tree at the edge of town. Margaret Darby, an elderly spinster, has been murdered―and the villagers are bewildered as to who would commit such a crime.

Agatha Raisin rises to the occasion (a little glad for the excitement, to tell the truth, after a long run of lost cats and divorces on the books). But Sumpton Harcourt is a small and private village, she finds―a place that poses more questions than answers. And when two more murders follow the first, Agatha begins to fear for her reputation―and even her life. That the village has its own coven of witches certainly doesn't make her feel any better...   

A cozy murder mystery, an idyllic village in the lovely Cotswolds, thatched cottages, and legends of a witches' coven swirling around an old oak tree...I couldn't have asked for a more inviting setup! Unfortunately, this charming narrative frame wasn't enough to smooth the choppy edges and afflictions of the book. Would reading the Agatha Raisin mystery series from the onset help warm up to the leading lady and recurring cast? Maybe...overall, I didn't find in the narrative enough appeal to sustain my interest in future (or backlist) installments. Scene development and flow of events were too bumpy and uneven to keep me focused on the plot, and this is what had me scratch star after star from my final rating. To quote P.I. Agatha Raisin herself, “the whole case makes me feel as if I’m wading through thick mud.”

Jumping on Agatha Raisin’s band wagon after the mystery novel series has been successfully running for twenty-seven episodes wasn’t probably the best way to enjoy  The Witches’ Tree...not enough background story, a huge chunk of the lead character’s arc missing completely, etc. Because I would like you to maximize your  reading experience, I’ll bring you up to speed and fill you in on M.C. Beaton’s popular amateur sleuth and humorous mystery novels.

Agatha Raisin is a frustrated, yet endearing , middle-aged public relations agent who moved from London to Carsely in the Cotswolds when she sold her public-relations firm in Mayfair and took an early retirement. She solves murders in each of the earlier books, but in the fifteenth book (Agatha Raisin and The Deadly Dance, 2004) Agatha sets up her own detective agency. The police, and even some of her acquaintances, insist that she solves crimes through accident and luck. Among the permanent cast of characters, police constable and friend Billy Wong; her ex and neighbor, James Lacey; Sir Charles Fraith, Agatha’s on-off boyfriend known for being stingy with his money. In 2014, M.C. Beaton’s mystery series was adapted to the small screen and became a full 8-part tv drama (Sky 1). It aired in the US on PBS (watch a video clip below).

M.C. Beaton is the pseudonym Glasgow native and New York Times bestselling author Marion Chesney reserves for her crime fiction and mystery novels. She is known primarily for the more than one hundred historical romance novels she has published under her own name  and under several noms de plume: Helen Crampton, Ann Fairfax, Jennie Tremaine, and Charlotte Ward.

My rating: 2 out 0f 5 stars

***An advance reader e-copy was graciously offered by the Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.


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