Now ensconced in the Cotswolds village of Carsely, wealthy middle-aged amateur sleuth Agatha Raisin discovers that opening a detective agency isn't as easy as it seems in M.C. Beaton's The Deadly Dance: An Agatha Raisin Mystery, the improbably plotted 15th installment in this English cozy series. Whether deliberate, accidental or unspoken, miscommunication rules-an insistent theme that won't deter Beaton fans but is unlikely to win new readers. Agent, Barbara Lowenstein. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Finally, Raisin opens her own detective agency! Beaton, a native Scot, authors the Hamish Macbeth mysteries and also writes under the name Marion Chesney. (See Hasty Death, p. 64) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Agatha Raisin finally makes it official by opening her own private detective agency. After years of dyspeptically ferreting out other people's secrets (Agatha Raisin and the Case of the Curious Curate, 2003, etc.), the peerless village snoop is suddenly playing second fiddle to Emma Comfrey: the Golden Ager she takes on as secretary only to watch as she quickly finds Mrs. Evans's strayed cat and Harry Johnson's missing son. And when Agatha lands a big case of her own-mingling with the guests at well-heeled Catherine Laggat-Brown's birthday party for her daughter Cassandra, who's been threatened with death if she goes through with her wedding plans to stockbroker Jason Peterson-she's dressed down by her client after pushing all three principals into a swimming pool. She pushed because she thought they were going to get shot. But wait! There really was a shooter, says DS Bill Wong, restoring Agatha's reputation if not winning her universal esteem. By journey's end, two separate assassins will be gunning for Agatha (a third having already been dispatched in her kitchen). Plus, her carnival of personal tribulations will have upstaged her professional caseload so completely that readers may be surprised when she actually names the perp. But then how many of Beaton's fans pick up these adventures for their wildly tangled plots?"I am a bitch, that's what I am," muses Agatha, whose biggest discovery in this effervescent bauble may be a spoonful's worth of self-knowledge. Agent: Barbara Lowenstein/Lowenstein-Yost Associates
From the Publisher
“It's been 40 years since Dame Agatha Christie's death, and in that time, reviewers have often bestowed her mantle on new authors. M.C. Beaton is one of those so honored, and she deserves it. When it comes to artfully constructed puzzle plots and charming settings, Beaton serves it up…this is a classic British cozy plot, and a setting done with panache. Maybe M.C. Beaton really is the new ‘Queen of Crime.'” The Globe & Mail
“It is always fun to read an Agatha Raisin mystery, but the latest installment freshens up a delightful series by converting the heroine from amateur sleuth to professional without changing her caustic wit. Agatha remains crude and rude even to clients, but also retains that vulnerability that endears her to readers.” Midwest Book Review
“A very satisfying change for the smart woman of mystery with a new cast of colorfully realized characters blending with a few old favorites.” Mystery Lovers Bookshop
“The story was first-rate and moved along with many twists and turns that kept me always guessing…I read this book in one sitting, which I think speaks for itself.” I Love a Mystery
“Fans of Agatha Raisin will be absolutely delighted at this latest addition to the series. Ms. Beaton has surpassed herself in The Deadly Dance.” Reviewing the Evidence
Read an Excerpt
The thing that finally nudged Agatha Raisin into opening her own detective agency was what she always thought of as the Paris Incident.
Made restless by the summer torpor blanketing the village of Carsely in the Cotswolds, Agatha decided to take a week's holiday in Paris.
She was a rich woman, but like all rich people was occasionally struck by periods of thrift, and so she had booked into a small hotel off Saint-Germain Des Pres in the Latin Quarter. She had visited Paris before and seen all the sights; this time wanted only to sit in cafes and watch the people go by or take long walks by the Seine.
But Paris, after the first two days, became even hotter than Carsely and her hotel room did not have any air-conditioning. As the heat mounted to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and she tossed and turned on her damp sheets, she discovered that Paris never sleeps. There were two restaurants across the road with outside tables, and, up until one in the morning, the accordion players came around to get money from the diners. Agatha, as she listened to another rendering of "La Vie en Rose," fantasised about lobbing a hand grenade through the window. Then there were the roar of the traffic and the yells of the tourists who had drunk not too wisely. Later on, as they felt not too well, she could hear moans and retching.
Nonetheless, she decided to see as much of Paris as possible. The Metro was cheap and went all over the place.
On the fourth day of her visit, she went down into the Metro at Maubert-Mutualite. She sat down on a hard plastic seat on the platform and pulled out her subway map. She planned to go to W. H. Smith on the Rue deRivoli and buy some English books.
As she heard the train approaching, she stuffed the map back in her handbag, flipped open the doors of the carriage with that silver handle which had so bemused her when she had first tried to board, and went inside, aware that someone was crowding behind her, and at the same time feeling a sort of tremor reverberating from her handbag up through the shoulder strap.
She glanced down and saw that her handbag was open again and that her wallet was missing.
Agatha stared wrathfully at the man who had crowded behind her. He was of medium height, white, with black hair, wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans.
"Here, you!" Agatha advanced on him. He nipped out of the carriage and into the next one, with Agatha in pursuit. Just as she was leaning forward to grab him and the train was moving out, he wrenched open the doors of the carriage and escaped onto the platform, leaving Agatha, who did not have the strength to do the same thing, being carried furiously away to the next station....
....It took much more money to set up a detective agency than Agatha ever dreamt it would. Brought up on Raymond Chandler--type movies, she had assumed that one sat in an office and waited for the beautiful dame with the shoulder pads to come swaying in---or something like that.
She quickly found out by surfing the net that detective agencies were supposed to offer a wide range of services, including all sorts of modern technology such as bugging and de-bugging, photographic or video evidence and covert and electronic surveillance.
Then someone would be needed to man the phones while she was out of the office. Agatha was shrewd enough to know now that one-woman operations were for novels. She would need to invest heavily in employing experts if she expected to get any return.
Once she had found an office in the centre of Mircester, she put advertisements in the local newspapers. For the photographic and video evidence, she hired a retired provincial newspaper photographer, Sammy Allen, arranging to pay him on a free-lance basis; and she secured the services of a retired police technician, Douglas Ballantine, under the same terms to cope with the electronic stuff.
But for a secretary, Agatha wanted someone intelligent who would be able to detect as well.
She began to despair. The applicants were very young and all seemed to be decorated with various piercings and tattoos.
Agatha was just wondering whether she should try to do any secretarial work herself when there came a knock at the door of the office. The door did not have a pane of frosted glass, which Agatha would have found more in keeping with the old-fashioned idea she had of detective agencies.
"Come in," she shouted, wondering if this could be her first client.
A very tall, thin woman entered. She had thick grey hair, cut short, a long thin face and sharp brown eyes. Her teeth were very large and strong. Her hands and feet were very large, the feet encased in sturdy walking shoes, and the hands were ringless. She was wearing a tweed suit which looked as if she had had it for years.
"Please sit down," said Agatha. "May I offer you some tea? Coffee?"
"Coffee, please. Two sugars, no milk."
Agatha went over to the new coffee machine and poured a mug, added two spoonfuls of sugar and placed it on the desk in front of what she hopefully thought was her first client.
Agatha was a well-preserved woman in her early fifties with short, shining brown hair, a good mouth, and small bearlike eyes which looked suspiciously out at the world. Her figure was stocky, but her legs were her finest feature.
"I am Mrs. Emma Comfrey."
Agatha wondered for a moment why the name was familiar and then she remembered that Mrs. Comfrey was her new neighbour.
Agatha found it hard to smile spontaneously but she bared her teeth in what she hoped was a friendly welcome. "And what is your problem?"
"I saw your advertisement in the newspapers. For a secretary. I am applying for the job."
Mrs. Comfrey's voice was clear, well-enunciated, upper-class. Agatha's working-class soul gave a brief twinge and she said harshly, "I would expect any secretary to help with the detective side if necessary. For that I would need someone young and active."
Her eyes bored into Mrs. Comfrey's thin face and flicked down her long figure. "I am obviously not young," said Mrs. Comfrey, "but I am active, computer-literate, and have a pleasant phone manner which you might find helps."
"How old are you?"
"But very intelligent," said Mrs. Comfrey.
Agatha sighed, and was about to tell her to get lost when there came a timid knock at the door.
"Come in," called Agatha.
A harassed-looking woman entered. I need a detective," she said.
Mrs. Comfrey took her coffee and moved over to a sofa at the side of the office.
Vowing to get rid of Emma as soon as they were alone again, Agatha asked, "What can I do for you?"
"My Bertie has been missing for a whole day now."
How old is Bertie?"
"Have you been to the police? Silly question. Of course you must have been to the police."
"They weren't interested," she wailed. She was wearing black leggings and a faded black T-shirt. Her hair was blonde but showing dark at the roots. "My name is Mrs. Evans."
"I fail to see . . ." Agatha was beginning when Emma said, "Bertie is your cat, isn't he?"
Mrs. Evans swung round. "Oh, yes. And he's never run away before."
"Do you have a photograph?" asked Emma.
Mrs. Evans fumbled in a battered handbag and took out a little stack of photographs. "That's the best one," she said, standing up and handing a photograph of a black-and-white cat to Emma. "It was taken in our garden."
She sat down beside Emma, who put a comforting arm around her shoulders. "Don't worry. We'll find your cat."
"How much will it cost?" asked Mrs. Evans.
Agatha had a list of charges but that list did not include finding stray cats.
"Fifty pounds plus expenses if we find him," said Emma. "I am Mrs. Raisin's secretary. If you will just give me your full name and address and telephone number."
Numbly Agatha handed Emma a notebook. Emma wrote down the particulars.
"Now, you go on home," said Emma, helping her to her feet, "and don't worry about a thing. If Bertie can be found, we'll find him."
When the door closed behind a grateful Mrs. Evans, Agatha said, ":You're rather high-handed, but here's what I'll do. Find that cat and you've got a job."
"Very well," said Emma calmly, tucking the notebook into her capacious handbag. "Thank you for the coffee." And that'll be the last I'll hear from her, thought Agatha.
Copyright 2004 by M.C. Beaton