Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Witches' Tree by MC Beaton - #review

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...



You know, there are some truly sick people in the world.  But luckily, there are those who work to uncover and bring to justice those who would rather their crimes remain in the dark.  Enter Agatha Raisin.

Agatha is divorced.  Her ex, James, lives next door.  She has a wealthy friend, Charles, that has occasionally come 'with benefits'.  She runs a small detective agency.  Then she thought she'd like a little excitement.  (Apparently the 'be careful what you wish for' goes for England as well as the US.)  Agatha had her first adventure in 1992 (when #1 was published), so you think she'd know that! *LOL*

And, given that Agatha has now had like 24 or so adventures, you would expect well-established characters and MC Beaton delivers admirably.  Agatha and James have danced around their lingering attraction for each other, and their interactions are still fresh and filled with a delicious romantic tension.

Agatha's staff work together like a well-oiled machine.  I really think they can finish each other's thoughts as well as their sentences.  (It reminds me of the character Radar in M*A*S*H, who has the papers that Colonel Blake needs to sign before he knows he needs them.)

As hard as it is to ingratiate oneself in small-town America, I think it may be even more difficult in small villages in England.  But Agatha and Co utilize their unique strengths to unravel the web woven around the guilty party/ies.  An actual coven of witches (I don't think they advertise as a rule) in such a community would have to be ultra-private.

If y'all haven't discovered already, there is also a TV series, called simply, Agatha Raisin.  I, of course, was expecting the show to follow the books.  Silly me.  Some devices work better in books and some work better on the screen.  But Agatha, no matter where she appears, is very, very good!



M.C. Beaton was born in Glasgow, Scotland. She started her first job as a bookseller in charge of the fiction department at John Smith & Sons Ltd. While bookselling, by chance, she received an offer from the Scottish Daily Mail to review variety shows and quickly rose to become their theatre critic. She left Smith’s to join Scottish Field magazine as a secretary in the advertising department, without any shorthand or typing experience, but quickly got the job of fashion editor instead. She then moved to the Scottish Daily Express where she reported mostly on crime. This was followed by a move to Fleet Street to the Daily Express where she became chief woman reporter.

After marrying Harry Scott Gibbons and having a son, Charles, Marion moved to the United States where Harry had been offered the position of editor of the Oyster Bay Guardian. They subsequently moved to Virginia and Marion worked as a waitress in a greasy spoon in Alexandria while Harry washed the dishes. Both then got jobs at Rupert Murdoch’s new tabloid, The Star, and moved to New York. Anxious to spend more time at home with her small son, Marion, supported by her husband, started to write Regency romances. After she had written close to 100, and had gotten fed up with the 1811 to 1820 period, she began to write detective stories under the pseudonym of M. C. Beaton. On a trip from the States to Sutherland on holiday, a course at a fishing school inspired the first Hamish Macbeth story. Marion and Harry returned to Britain and bought a croft house in Sutherland where Harry reared a flock of black sheep. When her son graduated, and both of his parents tired of the long commute to the north of Scotland, they moved to the Cotswolds, where Agatha Raisin was created.

While Marion wrote her historical romances under her maiden name, Marion Chesney, as well as several pseudonyms (Helen Crampton, Ann Fairfax, Jennie Tremaine, and Charlotte Ward), because of her great success with mystery novels as M. C. Beaton, most of her publishers both in the U.S. and abroad use the M. C. Beaton pseudonym for all of her novels.


(Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers in exchange for my honest review.)

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