by R.W. Green as M.C. Beaton
Minotaur Press 13-Dec-2022
AMBER LOVE 23-Dec-2022 This review is a courtesy provided by NetGalley. To support this site and my other work, please consider being a monthly donor at Patreon.com/amberunmasked; you can also buy my books through Amazon (or ask your local retailer to order you copies). I’m also an Amazon Influencer so you can shop through my lists of recommended products.
Agatha and her assistant, Toni, are driving to their friend Bill Wong’s long-awaited wedding, thinking of nothing more than what the beautiful bride will be wearing when a terrified young man comes running down the country lane towards them wearing…nothing at all.
The encounter leads them to become embroiled with a naturist group, a disappearing corpse, fantasy games, witchcraft, an ice cream empire, intrigue and murder. In the meantime, Agatha’s hectic life swirls along at dizzying pace, her private detective agency as busy as ever and her private affairs in turmoil, with old loves to contend with and a new suitor on the scene.
But when she begins to close in on a suspected murderer, she finds herself in deadly peril, as the sinister nature of the ice cream business leads her to a chilling conclusion…
Thanks to NetGalley for this opportunity to review a new Agatha Raisin mystery. It’s been some time since I visited Mrs. Raisin and her life in the Cotswolds. Author M.C. Beaton died in 2019. Like other legendary characters and series, a new writer was tasked to carry on Beaton’s voice and bring new adventures to Agatha Raisin. In this case, R.W. Green has delivered us a perfectly Agatha style tale for book number 33, Devil’s Delight.
Devil’s Delight starts with a bang—not of a gun, but of shock. A naked man running towards Agatha and her employee Toni who are driving near a naturist club. The naked man, Edward, reports that he’s found a corpse. And things only get weirder from there.
R.W. Green takes his time bringing readers up to speed which allows newcomers to pop into this book without having read any of the series prior. Agatha runs Raisin Investigations and has a reputation around the small town of Carsely where she lives on the charming Lilac Lane next to her ex, James. Agatha’s background as a business owner of a public relations firm from London comes up now and then. Readers get to know Agatha well. She’s often considered unlikeable, difficult, nosy, and cold. Based on the descriptions of how often she judges her own appearance and that others, you could call her high maintenance.
Agatha faces a huge inner challenge in Devil’s Delight because of her obsessive need to always be put-together, have her hair perfect, and lipstick applied after every cup of coffee or glass of wine. The mystery embedded in the culture of the Mircester Naturist Society eventually dares Agatha to strip out of her clothes (she still needs her makeup and styled bob in place though). First, she sends Toni to do the undercover naked work; but later Agatha decides to go for it herself as the climax approaches and the murderers are about to kill again.
There is also a B plot about drug dealing in a local all-girls school which ends up tied to the murders/disappearances Raisin Investigations is looking into. The agency places a twenty-something woman undercover since she can pass for a teenager. The reveal about the cocaine and weed distribution to the girls comes out as one of the antagonists continues to threaten Agatha for poking around.
These investigations land Agatha in life-threatening peril where a new man in her life, a police detective named John, comes to her rescue repeatedly. John is but one of several men courting Agatha in this story. She has choices of men. Something she didn’t think was possible knowing how other people talk about her personality. There’s the noble rich British man, Charles, who can’t find satisfaction with only one woman; the sexy, worldly, Italian musician with women falling all over him, Giovanni; John the police officer becomes more than a passing acquaintance; and the once love of her life James is mostly away from home during this story, but she still carries a flame for him even though they come off as all wrong for each other.
Agatha’s sexuality comes through as honest. Each encounter with a man leads her through authentic self-doubt not to mention the gossip that weeds its way through the church choir, the pub regulars at the Red Lion, and her employees.
Comic relief is also readily available as per the usual with Agatha Raisin. The naturist setting makes it even easier to find silliness, but Agatha comes around to find that she enjoys skinny dipping in the pool despite so many other naked people around her.
I believe R.W. Green is Rod Green, an author with a solid CV. Though my preference would have been for another talented female writer to take over for Marion C. Beaton, I think he does a great job with Agatha Raisin and her complicated life in a tiny village.
Agatha Raisin and her employee Toni get into all kinds of unexpected trouble when they realize that their suspect pool is more than one person because there is more than one crime to solve. The story is perfectly set for shenanigans providing welcome comedy to the tense situations. Kudos also to R.W. Green for normalizing not only being naked, but also LARPing (live action role playing) with people acting as sorcerers, witches, devotees, and so on. There’s a lot of escapism available that Agatha didn’t know was right in the next town.
Rating: 5 stars