Agatha Raisin's marriage was put off when her ex-husband showed up, unfortunately alive. Fortunately, he was murdered and Agatha solved the crime. Now she is off to Cyprus to track down her ex-fiance. Instead of enjoying their planned honeymoon, however, they witness the murder of an obnoxious tourist. Two sets of terrible tourists surround the unhappy couple,… See more details below
Agatha Raisin's marriage was put off when her ex-husband showed up, unfortunately alive. Fortunately, he was murdered and Agatha solved the crime. Now she is off to Cyprus to track down her ex-fiance. Instead of enjoying their planned honeymoon, however, they witness the murder of an obnoxious tourist. Two sets of terrible tourists surround the unhappy couple, arousing Agatha's suspicions. And, much to James' chagrin, she won't rest until she finds the killer. Unfortunately, it seems the killer also won't rest until Agatha is out of the picture. Agatha is forced to track down the murderer, try to rekindle her romance with James, and fend off a suave baronet, all while coping with the fact that it's always bathing suit season in Cyprus.
None of this nonsense can be taken seriously, least of all Agatha's obsession with the thoroughly off-putting James or plotting as full of holes as Swiss cheese. Only the author's blithe and breezy style and some interest in the historic sights of northern Cyprus could inspire most readers to stay the course.
AGATHA Raisin was a bewildered and unhappy woman. Her marriage to her next-door neighbour, James Lacey, had been stopped by the appearance of a husband she had assumed—hopefully—to be dead. But he was very much alive, that was, until he was murdered. Solving the murder had, thought Agatha, brought herself and James close again, but he had departed for north Cyprus, leaving her alone.
Although life in the Cotswold village of Carsely had softened Agatha around the edges, she was still in part the hard-bitten business woman she had been when she had run her own public-relations firm in Mayfair before selling up, taking early retirement and moving to the country. And so she had decided to pursue James.
Cyprus, she knew, was partitioned into two parts, with Turkish Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the south. James had gone to the north and somewhere, somehow, she would find him and make him love her again.
North Cyprus was where they had been supposed to go on their honeymoon and, in her less tender moments, Agatha thought it rather hard-hearted and crass of James Lacey to have gone there on his own.
When Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar's wife, called, it was to find Agatha amidst piles of brightly coloured summer clothes.
"Are you taking all those with you?" asked Mrs. Bloxby, pushing a strand of grey hair out of her eyes.
"I don't know how long I will be there," said Agatha. "I'd better take lots."
Mrs. Bloxby looked at her doubtfully. Then she said, "Do you think you are doing the right thing? I mean, men do not like to be pursued."
"How else do you get one?" demanded Agatha angrily. She picked up a swimsuit, one-piece, gold and black, and looked at it critically.
"I have doubts about James Lacey," said Mrs. Bloxby in her gentle voice. "He always struck me as being a cold, rather self-contained man."
"You don't know him," said Agatha defensively, thinking of nights in bed with James, tumultuous nights, but silent nights during which he had not said one word of love. "Anyway, I need a holiday."
"Don't be away too long. You'll miss us all."
"There's not much to miss about Carsely. The Ladies Society, the church fêtes, yawn."
"That's a bit cruel, Agatha. I thought you enjoyed them."
But Agatha felt that a Carsely without James had suddenly become a bleak and empty place, filled from end to end with nervous boredom.
"Where are you flying from?"
"Stansted Airport in Essex."
"How will you get there?"
"I'll drive and leave the car in the long-stay car-park."
"But if you are going to be away for very long, that will cost you a fortune. Let me drive you."
But Agatha shook her head. She wanted to leave Carsely, sleepy Carsely with its gentle villagers and thatched-roof cottages, behind and everything to do with it.
The doorbell rang. Agatha opened the door and Detective Sergeant Bill Wong walked in and looked around.
"So you're really going?" he remarked.
"Yes, and don't you try to stop me either, Bill."
"I don't think Lacey's worth all this effort, Agatha."
"It's my life."
Bill smiled. He was half Chinese and half English, in his mid-twenties, and Agatha's first friend, for before she moved to the Cotswolds she had lived in a hard-bitten and friendless world.
"Go if you must. Can you bring me back a box of Turkish delight for my mother?"
"Sure," said Agatha.
"She says you must come over for dinner when you get back."
Agatha repressed a shudder. Mrs. Wong was a dreadful woman and a lousy cook.
She went into the kitchen to make coffee and cut cake and soon they were all sitting around and gossiping about local matters. Agatha felt her resolve begin to weaken. She had a sudden clear picture of James Lacey's face turning hard and cold when he saw her again, but thrust it out of her mind.
She was going and that was that.
Stansted Airport was a delight to Agatha after her previous experience of the terrible crowds at Heathrow. She found she could not only smoke in the departure lounge but at the gate itself. There were a few British tourists and expatriates. The expatriates were distinguishable from the tourists because they wore those sort of clothes that the breed always wear—the women in print frocks, the men in lightweight suits or blazers, the inevitable cravats—and all had those strangulated sons-and daughters-of-the-Raj voices. Colonial Britain seemed to be alive and well on Turkish Cypriot Airways.
As she sat in the gate, she was surrounded mainly by Turkish voices. Her fellow passengers all seemed to have great piles of hand luggage.
The flight departure was announced. Those in the smoking seats were called first. With a happy sigh Agatha made her way onto the plane. She had burnt her boats behind her. There was no turning back now.
The plane soared above the grey, rainy skies and flat fields of Essex and all the passengers applauded wildly. Why were they applauding? wondered Agatha. Do they know something I don't? Is it unusual for one of their planes to take off at all?
The minute the plane wheels were up, the "No Smoking" sign clicked off and Agatha was soon surrounded by a fog of cigarette smoke. She had a window-seat and next to her was a large Turkish Cypriot woman who smiled at her from time to time. Agatha took out a book and began to read.
Then, just as the plane was starting to descend to Izmir in western Turkey, where she knew they would have to wait for an hour before taking off again, the plane was hit by the most awful turbulence. The hostesses clung on to the trolleys, which lurched dangerously from side to side. Agatha began to pray under her breath. No one else seemed in the slightest fazed. They fastened their seat-belts and chattered amiably away in Turkish. The expats seemed used to it, and the few tourists like Agatha were frightened to let down the British side by showing fear.
Just when she thought the plane would shake itself apart, the lights of Izmir appeared below and soon they landed. Again, everyone applauded, this time Agatha joining in.
"That was scary," said Agatha to the woman next to her.
"It was a bit o' fun, love," said the Turkish Cypriot woman speaking English in the accents of London's East End. "I mean, you'd pay for somethin' like that at Disney World."
After an hour, the plane took off again. Between Turkey and Cyprus they were served with a hard square of bread and goat cheese which looked as if it had been stamped out of a machine, washed down with sour-cherry juice.
Agatha felt the plane beginning to descend again. More turbulence, this time a thunderstorm. The plane lurched and bucked like a wild thing and, looking out of the window, Agatha saw to her dismay that the whole plane appeared to be covered in sheets of blue lightning. Again, the passengers smiled and chatted and smoked.
Agatha could not keep quiet any longer. "He shouldn't try to land in this weather," she said to the woman next to her.
"Oh, they can land in anything, luv. Pilot's Turkish. They're good."
"Ladies and gentles," said a soothing voice. "We are shortly about to land at Erçan Airport."
Again noisy applause on landing. Agatha peered out. It had been raining. She shuffled off the back of the plane onto the staircase, which had not been properly attached to the plane and bobbed and dipped and swayed dangerously.
I'll swim home, thought Agatha.
Having successfully reached the tarmac, she realized the heat was suffocating. It was like moving through warm soup. Wearily she walked into the airport buildings. It looked more like a military airport than a civilian one. It had actually been an RAF airfield up until 1975, and not much had been done to it since then.
She waited in a long line at passport control, a great number of the Turkish Cypriots having British passports. Her friend of the aeroplane said behind her, "Ask them for a form. Don't let them stamp your passport."
"Why?" asked Agatha, swinging around.
"Because if you want to go to Greece, they won't let you in there if you've got one of our stamps on your passport, but they'll give you a form and stamp that and then you can take it out of your passport, luv, and throw it away afterwards."
Agatha thanked her, got her form, filled it in and went to wait for her luggage.
"What the hell's going on here?" she demanded angrily.
No one replied, although a few smiled at her cheerfully. They talked, they smoked, they hugged each other.
Agatha Raisin, pushy and domineering, had landed among the most laid-back people in the world.
By the time the luggage arrived and she had arranged her two large suitcases onto a trolley and got through customs, she was soaking with sweat and trembling with fatigue.
She had booked into the Dome Hotel in Kyrenia and had told them by telephone before she left England to have a taxi waiting for her.
At first, as she scanned the crowd of waiting faces at the airport, she thought no one was there to meet her. Then she saw a man holding up a card which said, "Mrs. Rashin."
"Dome Hotel?" asked Agatha without much hope.
"Sure," said the taxi driver. "No problem."
Agatha wondered if there might be some Mrs. Rashin looking for a taxi, but she was too tired to care.
She sank thankfully into the back seat. The black night swirled past her beyond the steamy windows. The taxi swung off a dual carriageway, through some army chicanes and then began to climb up a precipitous mountain road. Jagged mountains stood up against the night sky.
Then the driver said, "Kyrenia," and far below on her right Agatha could see the twinkling lights of a town—and somewhere down there was James Lacey.
The Dome Hotel is a large building on the waterfront of Kyrenia, Turkish name Girne, which has seen better days and has a certain battered colonial grandeur. There is something endearing about The Dome. Agatha checked in and had her bags carried up to her room. She switched on the air-conditioning, bathed and got ready for bed, too tired to unpack her suitcases.
She stretched out on the bed. But exhausted as she was, sleep would not come. She tossed and turned and then got out of bed again.
She fumbled with the curtains, drew them back, opened the windows and then the shutters.
She walked out onto a small balcony, her anger draining away. The Mediterranean, silvered by moonlight, stretched out before her, calm and peaceful. The air smelt of jasmine and the salt tang of the sea. She leaned her hands on the iron railing at the edge of the balcony and took deep breaths of warm air. The waves of the sea crashed on the rocks below and to her left was a sea-water swimming pool carved out of the rock.
When she returned to her room, she found she was beginning to scratch at painful bites on her neck and arms. Mosquitoes! She found a tube of insect-bite cream in her luggage and applied it generously. Then she lay down on the bed again after having closed the windows and shutters.
She dialled reception.
"Effendim?" said a weary voice on the phone.
"There is a mosquito in my room," snapped Agatha.
"Oh, never mind," growled Agatha.
Despite the buzzing of the mosquito and her fear of getting more bites—for if she did meet James and they went swimming she did not want to be covered in unsightly lumps—her eyes began to close.
There was a knock at the door. "Come in," she called.
A hotel servant came in carrying a fly-swuat. His black eyes ranged brightly around the room. Then he swiped hard with the fly-swaut.
"Gone now," he said cheerfully.
Agatha thanked him and tipped him.
Her eyes closed again and she plunged into a nightmare where she was trying and trying to get to north Cyprus but the plane had been diverted to Hong Kong.
When she awoke in the morning, gladness flooded her. She was here in Cyprus and somewhere out in that jasmine-scented world was James.
She put on a smart flowered cotton dress and sandals and went downstairs for breakfast. The dining-room overlooked the sea.
There were a number of Israeli tourists, which puzzled Agatha, who knew this to be a Muslim country, and did not know that Turkish Muslims have a great admiration for Judaism. There were also mainland Turkish tourists—that too, she found out later, when she began to be able to tell the difference between Turk and Turkish Cypriot. But the British tourists were immediately recognizable by their clothes, their white sheepish faces, that odd irresolute look of the British abroad.
The air-conditioning was working in the restaurant. Agatha helped herself from an odd buffet selection which included black olives and goat cheese, and then, anxious to begin the hunt, walked out of the hotel.
She let out a whimper as the full force of the heat struck her. British to the core, Agatha just had to complain to someone. She marched back in and up to the reception desk.
"Is it always as hot as this?" she snarled. "I mean, it's September. Summer's over."
"It's the hottest September for fifty years," said the receptionist.
"I can't move in this heat."
He gave an indifferent shrug. Agatha was to find that the receptionist was Turkish and that Turkish hotel servants have had a servility bypass.
"Why don't you go for a sail?" he said. "You'll get one of the boats round at the harbour. Cooler on the water."
"I don't want to waste time," said Agatha. "I'm looking for someone. A Mr. James Lacey. Is he staying here?"
The receptionist checked the records.
"Then can you give me a list of hotels in north Cyprus?"
"We haven't got one."
"Oh, for heaven's sake! Can I hire a car?"
"Next door to the hotel. Atlantic Cars."
Grumbling under her breath, Agatha went out and into a small car-hire office next door to the hotel. Yes, she was as told, she could hire a car and pay with a British bank cheque if she wanted. "We drive on the British side of the road," said the car-hire man in perfect English.
Agatha signed the forms, paid for the car hire, and soon she was behind the wheel of a Renault and edging through the crowded streets of Kyrenia. The other drivers were slow but erratic. No one seemed to bother signalling to the right or the left. She pulled into a parking place on the main street, remembering she had a guide to north Cyprus in her handbag, which she had bought in Dillon's bookshop in Oxford before she left. It would surely have a list of hotels. The guidebook, Northern Cyprus by John and Margaret Goulding, she noticed for the first time, was actually published by The Windrush Press, Moreton-in-Marsh in the Cotswolds. That seemed to her like a lucky sign. Sure enough, the hotels in Kyrenia were listed. She returned to her room at The Dome and called one after the other, but none had heard of James Lacey.
She settled down in the air-conditioning to read about Kyrenia instead. Although it was called Girne by the Turks, most still used its old name. In the same way Nicosia had become Lefkoa, but was often still called Nicosia. Kyrenia, she read, is a small northern port and tourist centre with a famously pretty harbour dominated by a castle; founded (as Kyrenia) in the tenth century B.C. by Achaeans and renamed Corineum by the Romans. It was later walled against pirates and became a centre for the carob trade but fell largely into ruin in 1631 and by 1814 had become home to only a dozen families. It was revived under the British, who improved the harbour and built the road to Nicosia. Prior to the partition of the island after 1974, when the Turks landed to save their own people from being killed by the Greeks, Kyrenia was a popular retirement town for British expatriates. After 1974 it was settled by refugees from Limassol in the south of the island and once again resumed its role as a genteel resort, with a new harbour to the east of the town.
Agatha put down the guidebook. The mention of the new harbour had reminded her of the receptionist's suggestion of a sail.
She went out again and walked dizzily in the blinding heat round to the harbour, wandering among the basket chairs of the fish restaurants until she saw a board advertising a cruise. It was a yacht called the Mary Jane. The skipper saw her studying the board and came along the gangplank and hailed her. He said the cruise cost twenty pounds and included a buffet lunch. They sailed in half an hour and she would have time to go back to the hotel and fetch her swim-suit.
Excerpted from Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by M. C. Beaton. Copyright © 1997 M. C. Beaton. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin Press.
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