M.C. Beaton •
Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist •
Agatha Raisin is a far cry from your conventional heroine. She’s unscrupulous. She’s vain. She’s domineering, mouthy, and notoriously insensitive to the feelings of others, having had no friends for most of her adult life. She subsists on black coffee, cigarettes, microwaved curry, and gin and tonic. She will poach fresh fish for her beloved cats, Hodge and Boswell, but can’t be bothered to cook for herself. Her favorite expletive is “Snakes and bastards!”
Beaton frequently describes her as “stocky,” although her legs are “excellent.” (Agatha’s, not Beaton’s. Well, maybe Beaton’s too; how would I know?) And calling her small eyes “bearlike” is a masterful touch.
What Agatha has in her favor is dogged stubbornness, an uncanny degree of intuition, and a thoroughgoing knowledge of human nature. Before taking early retirement and buying her cottage on Lilac Lane, she was a PR maven in London.
Most of the series finds Agatha in England’s scenic Cotswolds, a region of quaint villages, thatched roofs, and rolling hills. In Terrible Tourist she spends a holiday in Cyprus—during the hottest September weather of 50 years. While searching for her errant husband, Agatha stumbles across a viper’s nest of ugly Britishers, one of whom gets herself murdered.
Sweltering in ferocious temperatures, unable to speak Turkish or Greek, suspected of committing the crime herself, and nearly defenestrated, Agatha nonetheless triumphs in solving the case.
Beaton has a seemingly endless supply of eccentric characters, and she trots them out in the 30 novels that make up this varied and surprising series. You may not want to live next door to Agatha, but you’ll definitely want to know what she’s up to this time.
And if you enjoy listening to British accents, look for the excellent audio versions of Agatha’s adventures, narrated by Penelope Keith.