Lead Review

  • Book: Agatha Raisin and the Witches’ Tree
  • Location: The Cotswolds
  • Author: M C Beaton

Review Author: tripfiction



A hard book to classify. A fairly simple, but unlikely, mystery set in a Cotswold village. At one extreme it is quite cosy and rural – at the other it is very violent. Agatha Raisin is a bit like Miss Marple on speed – a hard drinker, a smoker, and not exactly saving herself for the right man. She runs a private detective agency.

A devout church going lady of Sumpton Harcourt is found one night hanging with a noose round her neck in the Witches’ Tree in the centre of the village. She is dead. Other deaths follow at alarming speed as Agatha investigates. The book has all the usual village characters – the vicar and his wife (and why exactly did they move here from London?), the ex Foreign Office ‘squire’ and his wife, the strange mother and daughter who run the local tea shop, the equally strange brother and sister who live on a local small holding. Plus rumours of a present day witches’ coven. Plenty of suspects for the crimes…

The plot is well put together, and leads to a perhaps surprising denouement. But I would be lying if I said that the book is ‘my cup of tea’. It certainly has more ‘edge’ than an Agatha Christie mystery, but it is very much of the same genre. I guess I prefer something less cosy, less escapist and more of the real world. Many of the characters seem like caricatures of themselves… I can, though, absolutely understand how M C Beaton has become such a successful and respected author – though she is perhaps not entirely to my taste.

In TripFiction terms, the book works well. The Cotswolds come through loud a clear – and they really are a very beautiful part of the world.

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