So, my first SR read for 2020 was the first of my Second Acts as I'm calling them with M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet.
Granted, this book was adapted into season one of the British TV series so I had a bit of a heads-up here. Yet, there are always differences from script to screen(this story is episode five of the show), plus I did enjoy reading The Quiche of Death so much that this was a welcome pleasure indeed.
For this outing, Agatha is feeling quite bored after her previous detective adventure, not to mention looking for love with handsome neighbor James Lacey. Since James appears to be more interested in either working on his book of military history or keeping company with another local lady, Agatha sets her sights on the new veterinarian, Paul Bladen.
Many of the ladies in the small town of Carsely are eager to take their pets in to see this potential new bachelor and despite the supposedly good doctor's lack of interest in household animals(especially cats), Bladen has quite a few admirers.
However, he only seems to have an eye for mature women with plenty of money such as Agatha, who he takes out on a less than exciting date at a bad restaurant. Before she gets too involved with him, Bladen is found dead at Lord Pendlebury's estate while administering a shot to one of his Lordship's prize horses.
The whole incident appears to be a work related accident but Agatha is suspicious and manages to recruit James into investigating the matter with her. Turns out that James is having a bit of writer's block and in need of some distraction, not to mention that he has the social connections to make checking out the scene of the crime that much easier:
However, when a former client of Paul Bladen's, whose cat was unjustly put down, invites Agatha over to talk about what she knows and is discovered dead, there is no turning back for her at all here.
This second outing has more of the lively wit that the first book sets up shop with and stays for the most part in the Cotwolds(with a small exception for a brief subplot about a former friendly rival trying to con Agatha out of her money) which allows for Agatha and James to develop more of a relationship. Despite their initial reluctance in romance-he doesn't like being pursued and she would like him to take the lead-Agatha and James do click together quite nicely.
While Agatha doesn't need to be partnered with anyone, she does seem to like having an assistant on hand ,probably a holdover from her PR firm days. Also, a partner does come in handy in detective tales as back-up for when the lead sleuth is trapped by the bad guys.
Seeing Agatha and James strike up a few sparks is a nice touch and while it may not be as sassy sexy as Phryne Fisher's love interests are, surely Agatha is equally capable of getting her man in more ways than one:
The only regret I have here is in learning of M.C. Beaton's passing just before the new year. Her actual name was Marion Chesney, who also wrote Regency romances under various pen names and along with Agatha Raisin, her other popular detective series was Hamish Macbeth, who had his books turned into a television show as well.
She had a lengthy writing career, starting in the late 1970s with her Ann Fairfax and Jennie Tremaine novels and by the mid-1980s, creating the Hamish Macbeth series(which grew to 34 books in total, not counting a short story collection and Christmas themed tale) and in the early 1990s, bringing us Agatha Raisin, whose final novel, Hot to Trot, is due out later this year.
From all accounts, Marion Chesney was a warmhearted soul with some of the snarky humor that her leading lady Agatha possessed. It is a shame that such a charming, talented writer is no longer with us yet I am glad to have made her fictional acquaintance and to see more of her characters come to life on the small screen to boot:
Well, this Second Act will be followed by another as February's Series-ous Reading selection is Dying for Chocolate by Diane Mott Davidson. No, the plot is not centered around Valentine's Day but a candy themed mystery is hard to resist.
I did read the first title in Mott Davidson's series, Catering to Nobody, featuring divorced caterer Goldy Bear who had to take up crime solving in order to get her business back on track. It was an engaging romp and this second helping has Goldy dealing with two potential love interests while fending off her awful ex-husband and finding herself at the center of a murder investigation once again.
Goldy has a sly sense of humor, despite the various trouble tossed her way, which makes me want to see more of her appetizing adventures. Plus, the recipes included are tasty breaks from the action and yes, a sweet treat is on the menu that is hopefully not fatally delicious: