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With There Goes the Bride, M. C. Beaton is on her twentieth novel in the Agatha Raisin series and I have to confess that I have not read any of the previous nineteen. This did not prove a hindrance as all series characters were introduced with a little backstory and/or a quirk of character or appearance. However, there were rather a lot of them on times, making it a tad difficult to keep up. (Cue: look at previous pages.)
By the time of There Goes the Bride we have a seasoned Agatha: in her fifties with two successful businesses behind her (PR followed by private detection); conscious of her ageing looks and potentially withering abilities; and with an arthritic hip creaking in. As There Goes the Bride opens, Agatha still feels something for ex-husband James Lacey and takes a well-earned holiday to brush up on his interests in history, just to prove herself. Unfortunately, James – on holiday in the same places with his bride-to-be, Felicity - spots her, so the scene is set for some later accusations of 'stalking'.
But, of course, it gets worse. You only have to look at the cover. Agatha is invited to the wedding of James and Felicity and turns up with much younger, former employee Toni Gilmour in tow. The only one who doesn't show up for the wedding is Felicity herself, having been shot dead at home before she could even step foot into the car to take her to the church. And who makes the obvious first prime suspect? Yes, you've guessed it, dear old Agatha. But, a wedding cake is not as simple as it seems on the surface and ditto the plot here. Felicity's mother then engages Agatha to find out who killed her daughter, i.e. sift through the dried fruit in the basic building block (of cakes and murder).
Picked up because it was a shorter novel, I have to admit to enjoying this mix of classic cosy with a bit of comedy thrown in. With a few years to go before I get to Agatha's age, I wondered if I'd feel as insecure. (For Agatha is always honest.) The feel of contemporary culture is perhaps more of a novel written a decade earlier as the norms are debated and ridiculed. But oddly, that made it more fun as I was reminded of how far we have moved in society in such a short space of time.
Constable and Robinson are issuing the Agatha Raisin series with new covers this autumn. Great artworks they are too. Here's a sample:
With thanks to Constable and Robinson for the copy received.