Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell continues the tradition in M. C. Beaton's beloved Agatha Raisin mystery seriesnow a hit show on Acorn TV and public television.
Recently married to James Lacey, the witty and fractious Agatha Raisin quickly finds that marriage, and love, are not all they are cracked up to be. Rather than basking in marital bliss, the newlyweds are living in separate cottages and accusing each other of infidelity. After a particularly raucous fight in the local pub, James suddenly vanishes-a bloodstain the only clue to his fate-and Agatha is the prime suspect.
Determined to clear her name and find her husband, Agatha begins her investigation. But her sleuthing is thwarted when James's suspected mistress, Melissa, is found murdered. Joined by her old friend Sir Charles, Agatha digs into Melissa's past and uncovers two ex-husbands, an angry sister, and dubious relations with bikers. Are Melissa's death and James's disappearance connected? Will Agatha reunite with her husband or will she find herself alone once again?
About the Author
M.C. Beaton is the Scottish-born author of the Agatha Raisin novels, the Hamish Macbeth series and The Skeleton in the Closet. She lives in a village in the English Cotswolds.
Read an Excerpt
Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell
By M. C. Beaton
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1999 M. C. Beaton
All rights reserved.
IT was supposed to be the end of a dream — the perfect marriage. Here was Agatha Raisin married to the man she had longed for, had fantasized about. Her neighbour, James Lacey. And yet she was miserable.
It had all started with one incident two weeks after they had returned from their honeymoon. The honeymoon in Vienna and then Prague had been taken up with sightseeing and sex, and so no real day-to-day life together had really bothered them. Agatha had kept her own cottage next door to James's in the village of Carsely in the English Cotswolds. The idea was to make it a thoroughly modern marriage and give each other some space.
Sitting now in her own cottage cradling a cup of black coffee, Agatha remembered the day it had all begun to go wrong.
Anxious to be the perfect wife, she had bundled up all their dirty washing, ignoring the fact that James kept his dirty laundry in a separate basket and preferred to do it himself. It was a brisk spring day with great fleecy clouds being tugged across the sky like so many stately galleons by a breezy wind. Agatha sang as she piled all the dirty clothes into her large washing machine. Somewhere at the back of her mind was a little warning bell telling her that real housewives separated the colours from the whites. She put in washing powder and fabric softener, and then went out to sit in the garden and watch her two cats playing on the lawn. When she heard the washing machine roar to a finish, she rose and opened the door of the machine and tugged all the clothes out into a large laundry basket, preparatory to hanging them out in the garden. She found herself staring down at a basket of pink clothes. Not light pink but shocking pink. Dismayed, she searched through the clothes for the culprit, and at last found it, a pink sweater she had bought at a street market in Prague. All James's clothes — his shirts, his underwear — were all now bright pink.
But in the rosy glow of new marriage had she not expected to be forgiven? Had she not expected him to laugh with her?
He had been furious. He had been incandescent with rage. How dare she mess about with his clothes? She was stupid and incompetent. The pre-marriage Agatha Raisin would have told him exactly what to do with himself, but the new, demoralized Agatha humbly begged forgiveness. She forgave him, because she knew he had been a bachelor for a long time and used to his own ways.
The next incident had happened after she had picked up two microwaveable dinners in Marks & Spencer, two trays of lasagne. He had picked at his plateful of food and had commented acidly that as he was perfectly well able to make proper lasagne, perhaps in future she had better leave the cooking to him.
Then there was the matter of her clothes. Agatha felt frumpish when not wearing high heels. James had said as they lived in the country, she might consider wearing flats and stop teetering around like a tart. Her skirts were too tight, some of her necklines were too low. And as for her make-up? Did she need to plaster it on?
Yes, there was love-making during the night, but only during the night. No impulsive hugs or kisses during the day. Bewildered, Agatha began to wander about in a fog of masculine disapproval.
And yet she did not confide in anyone about the misery of her marriage, not even to her friend, Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar's wife. Had not Mrs. Bloxby cautioned her against the marriage? Agatha could not bear to admit defeat.
She sighed and looked out of her kitchen window. Here she was in her own cottage, hiding like a criminal in her own cottage. The phone rang, startling her. She tentatively picked it up, wondering whether it might be James about to deliver another lecture. But it was Roy Silver. Roy had once worked for Agatha when she had owned her own public relations company in London and was now working for a big public relations firm in the City.
"How's the happily married Mrs. Lacey?" asked Roy.
"I'm still Agatha Raisin," snapped Agatha. Using her own name seemed to be the last shred of independence she had managed to hold on to. She had not quite realized that using the name of her late husband, whom she had heartily despised, was hardly a blow for freedom.
"How modern," remarked Roy.
"Nothing. Haven't heard from you since the wedding. How was Vienna?"
"Not very exciting. Not much pizzazz. Prague was all right. Are you sure this is just a friendly call? Nothing up your sleeve?"
"There is one thing that might interest you."
"I thought there might be. What?"
"There's a new shoe company opening in Mircester. We're handling the account. Not a big account, but they want a public relations officer to launch their new line coming out of their new factory. It's called the Cotswold Way."
"And what's that?"
"Those sort of clumpy boots the young like, not to mention those serious ramblers who plague the countryside. Short-term contract, right on your doorstep."
Agatha was about to say she was a happily married woman and didn't have time for anything else. She always told everyone in the village how happy she was. But she suddenly felt desperately in need of an identity. She was good at spin, at public relations. Failure as a housewife she might be, but she felt secure in her talents as a business woman.
"Sounds interesting," she said cautiously. "What's the company called?"
"Sounds as if they ought to be selling liverwurst and submarine sandwiches."
"So can I fix up an interview for you?"
"Why not? The sooner the better."
"Usually I have to spend ages into talking you back into work," said Roy. "Sure the marriage is okay?"
"Of course it is. But James is usually writing during the day and doesn't want me underfoot."
"Mmm. I called his number and he told me you were on the old number."
"I kept on my cottage. These little cottages can be claustrophobic. This way we have two of everything. Two kitchens, two bathrooms and so on."
"Okay. I'll fix an appointment and call you back."
When she had rung off, Agatha lit a cigarette, a habit James detested, and stared off into space. How would he react to her rejoining the work force? Despite a feeling of trepidation, she felt her emotional muscles hardening up. He could like it or lump it. Agatha Raisin rides again!
And yet she had not really thought he would object. No man, not even James, could be that old-fashioned. When Roy told her he had managed to get her an appointment for the following afternoon at three o'clock, she called to her cats and, with Hodge and Boswell following behind, made her way to James's cottage next door. Never our cottage, she thought sadly as she opened the door and shooed the cats inside.
James was sitting in front of his computer, scowling at it. He had managed to have one military history published and had felt sure the next one would be easy, but he seemed to spend days frowning at a screen on which nothing was written but "Chapter One." He had his hand on his forehead, as if he had a headache.
"I've got a job," said Agatha.
He actually smiled at her. His blue eyes crinkled up in his tanned face in that way that still made her heart turn over. "What is it?" he asked, switching off the computer. "I'll make us some coffee and you can tell me about it." He headed for the kitchen.
All Agatha's misery about their marriage disappeared. The old hope that all they were doing was experiencing some initial marital blips lit up her soul. He came in carrying two mugs of coffee. "This is decaf," he said. "You drink too much of the real stuff and it's not good for you. Your clothes smell of smoke. I thought you'd given up."
"I just had the one," said Agatha defensively, although she had smoked five. When would people grasp the simple fact that if you wanted people to stop smoking, then don't nag them and make them feel guilty. People are told when dealing with alcoholics not to mention their drinking or pour the stuff down the sink because it only stops them looking at their problem. But smokers were hounded and berated, causing all the rebellion of the hardened addict.
"Anyway," said James, handing her a cup of coffee and sitting down opposite her, "what's the job? Who are you fundraising for now?"
"It's not a village thing," said Agatha. "I'm taking on a contract to promote some new shoes, or boots, rather, for a firm in Mircester."
"You mean, a real job?"
"Why, yes, of course, a real job."
"We don't need the money," said James flatly.
"Money's always useful," said Agatha cheerfully. Then her smile faded as she looked at James's angry face.
"Oh, what's up now?" she asked wearily.
"You have no need to work. You should leave employment to those who need a job."
"Look, I need this job. I need an identity."
"Spare me the therapy-speak. In proper English, please."
Agatha cracked. "In proper English," she howled, "I need something to bolster my ego, which you have been doing your best to destroy. Nit-picking all day long. Yak, yak, yak. 'Don't do this, don't do that.' Well, stuff you, matey. I'm going back to work."
He rose abruptly and headed for the door. "Where are you going?" demanded Agatha. But the slamming of the door was her only answer.
The following day, Agatha put on a charcoal-grey trouser-suit, pleased that the waistline was now quite loose. There was something to be said for marital misery. James had stayed away the whole of the previous day and had not arrived back home until Agatha had fallen into an uneasy sleep. Breakfast had been a doom-laden, silent affair. She could feel herself weakening. She had prepared breakfast but everything had gone wrong. She had burnt the toast and the scrambled eggs were lumpy and hard. And she could feel the atmosphere weakening her. She longed to say, "Forget it. You're quite right. I won't take the job." But somewhere she found a little bit of courage to help her ignore his mood.
It was another fine late spring day as she motored along the Fosse to Mircester. Following Roy's directions, she cut off before the town to an industrial estate on the outskirts. It was a new estate, the ground in front of the factories still having a raw, naked look.
She thought it a good sign that she was not kept waiting. In Agatha's experience, only unsuccessful business people massaged their egos by keeping people waiting. She was ushered into a boardroom by an efficient middle-aged secretary — another good sign, in Agatha's opinion. She was introduced to the managing director, the advertising manager, the sales director and various other executives.
In the middle of the boardroom table was a large leather boot. The managing director, Mr. Piercy, began right away. "Now, Mrs. Raisin, that boot on the table is our Cotswold Way model. We want to promote it. Mr. Hardy, our advertising manager, suggests we should get one of the rambling groups and kit them out."
"Won't do," said Agatha immediately. "Round here, people think of ramblers as hairy militant types. How much is a pair of boots?"
"Ninety-nine pounds and ninety-nine pee."
"That's quite expensive for the youth market and it's the young who go for boots like that."
"We've done our costing and we can't bring down our price."
"What about television advertising?"
"We're a small company," said Mr. Piercy. "We want a simple launch and then the boot will sell on its merits."
"In other words," said Agatha brutally, "you can't afford to pay for much hype."
"We can afford a certain amount but not nationwide coverage."
Agatha thought hard. Then she said, "There's a new group in Gloucester called Stepping Out. Heard of them?"
Heads were shaken all round.
"I saw a documentary about them on Midlands Today," said Agatha. "They're an up-and-coming pop group — three boys, three girls — all clean-cut, good image. They recently had a record that was number sixty-two in the charts, but they're being tipped for stardom. If we could get them fast, kit them out in the boots, get them to write a song about rambling — they write their own songs — and give a concert, you might catch them just before they become famous. Then your boots will be associated with success."
The advertising manager spoke. "How do you know about this group, Mrs. Raisin?"
"It's a hobby," said Agatha. "I automatically look out for who I think is going to be famous. I'm always right."
They thrashed her idea around, Agatha bulldozing them when they seem tempted to reject it. In the back of her mind, she wished she were working for a large company and not this hick outfit, as she privately damned it. Something to really impress James. But James was not going to be impressed by anything she did, she thought sadly.
They finally decided to accept Agatha's scheme. "Just one thing, Mrs. Raisin," said Mr. Piercy. "Your name was given to us as Mrs. Lacey."
"Don't you use it?"
"No, I've used the name Raisin in business for years. Easier to keep it."
"Very well, Mrs. Raisin. Would you like an office here?"
"No, I'll work from home. I'll try to set up something with the pop group and arrange to meet you tomorrow."
Agatha drove back to Carsely feeling exhilarated. But as her car wound down to the village under a green archway of trees, her mood darkened. She let herself into her own cottage where she still kept her business papers and computer. She had logged the name of the pop group and their manager into her computer, a sort of public relations reflex. She then went to a stack of telephone directories. She selected the Gloucester directory and began to look up the manager's name, Harry Best. There were several H. Bests listed. She settled down to phone them all. One of the H. Bests turned out to be the father of the manager she was looking for. He gave her Harry Best's number and she dialled that. She crisply outlined her plan for publicizing the Cotswold Way boot.
"I dunno," said Harry Best in that estuary-English accent that Agatha found so depressing. "We're hot stuff. Cost you a lot."
Agatha took a deep breath. "This needs to be discussed face to face," she said firmly. "I'm coming over to Gloucester. Give me your address."
He gave her a Churchdown address. Churchdown is actually outside Gloucester. As Agatha drove off again, past James's cottage, past the white blur of his face at the window, she reflected she would not be back in time for dinner. A good wife would phone and say she was going to be late.
"But I am no longer a good wife," said Agatha out loud, gripping the steering wheel tightly.
The traffic was heavy and there were not only road-works on the A-40 to contend with but various lethargic men driving tractors at ten miles per hour. By the time she found Harry's address, she was feeling weak and disheartened. She longed to chuck it all up and return to James, try to conciliate him, try to make the marriage from hell work somehow. But a weedy, balding man with what was left of his hair worn in a ponytail was standing outside a shabby villa waiting for her.
Agatha studied him as she approached. He had those little half-moon glasses perched on a beaky nose which drooped over a small pursed mouth. She judged him to be nearly forty and he was wearing that clinging-on-to-youth outfit of cowboy boots, jeans, and a black leather jacket.
Mr. Harry Best was as little impressed with Agatha as she was with him. He saw a stocky woman with shiny brown hair worn in a French pleat. Her round face had a good mouth and a neat nose, but her eyes were wary, brown and bearlike.
"I'm Agatha Raisin." Agatha gave one of his limp, clammy hands a firm shake. "May we go inside to discuss business?"
"Sure. Follow me."
The room into which he led her showed signs of hasty and not thorough house-cleaning. A wastepaper basket was bulging with empty Coke cans. Under a cushion on an armchair Agatha could see a pile of newspapers and magazines which had been thrust underneath to hide them.
Agatha got down to business. She outlined the promotion, the idea of writing a song to go with the new boots and then they haggled over price. He tried to drive the price up by saying if the group advertised something, people would think they were unsuccessful. Agatha pointed out that many successful pop stars had appeared on advertisements. "What about Michael Jackson?" she asked crisply.
Excerpted from Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell by M. C. Beaton. Copyright © 1999 M. C. Beaton. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
"Anyone interested in a few hours' worth of intelligent, amusing reading will want to make the acquaintance of Mrs. Agatha Raisin."-Atlanta Journal Constitution
"[Agatha] is a glorious cross between Miss Marple, Auntie Mame, and Lucille Ball, with a tad of pit bull tossed in. She's wonderful." -St. Petersburg Times
"Among the many joys of all Agatha Raisin adventures are Beaton's sweetly formal prose and her vivid descriptions of colorful villagers. This one, however, adds a crackerjack plot and a delightfully comic ending to the mix, making it clearly the best of the lot." -Booklist "AGATHA RAISIN AND THE LOVE FROM HELL is sheer fun. Beaton tells a sly story as she satirizes cozy English village life. The intrepid Agatha is in fine form as she proves no one can make a monkey out of her!"-RT Book Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Do not buy this ebook. The first one or two letters are missing from words in every paragraph. All the typos have ruined an enjoyable book.
Don't buy this online! Go instead to the library or buy it as a print book. Unlike most of the online books which are reasonably accurately scanned and [presumably] proofread, this one has many words missing the first two letters or the last two letters - or strange symbols are inserted. Very difficult to read, distracting me from the plot. Yuk!!
Agatha Raisin was so disagreeable and unlikeable I could not enjoy the book. She is very self-centered and feels superior to other people, e.g., calling her client a hick outfit. She feels free to tell a complete stranger that she needs to eat more, but goes ballistic when the stranger retorts that Agatha need to eat less. She can't control her temper. She wants James' cottage to be their cottage, but her cottage to be her cottage. I would recommend skipping this book and trying a Hamish Macbeth mystery by MC Beaton.
The 11th in the Agatha Raisin series is so far the best of the lot. Agatha has finally married her long-time lover James and all should be happiness and joy. Not so!She and James fight constantly and then Agatha discovers James is a liar and a cheat. To top it off, he is a murder suspect and noone knows where he is. So Agatha, though heartbroken, knows James is capable of many things, but not murder, tries to catch the real killer.A fun,quirky read and a true treat.
n this episode, Agatha has finally married her next door neighbor, James Lacey, only to discover that married life isn't all she'd hoped for. In fact, James has a mistress on the side. When the mistress is found murdered and James has disappeared, he becomes the principle suspect in the murder investigation and it is up to Agatha to not only find him, but clear his name as well. As others in here have mentioned, I like Agatha a lot better when she's not ga-ga over some man. I'll give it a 3.5.
Not my favorite Agatha mystery. She's unhappily married to James who goes missing after his mistress is murdered. Agatha finds out he has a brain tumor and can't face the fact and decides to prove him innocent of the mistress' murder.
Agatha Raisin may disagree with this but I kinda like Sir Charles Fraithe despite his non-serious demeanor and tight-wad ways. He'll make a lousy husband but he's a chump of a pal.
Poor Agatha Raisin is the prime suspect in both a disappearance and a murder! Not only has her new estranged husband disappeared, leaving only his bloodstains, but also his mistress is found murdered days after his disappearance. Agatha and her good friend, Charles, set out and succeed in clearing her name and discovering the fate of her husband. M.C. Beaton delivers another entertaining story, again balancing mystery, humor (especially class satire), and romance in her series set in the English Cotwolds featuring the feisty, middle-aged Agatha Raisin.
At last James is going to be a monk. Agatha sure can pick a looser. A DELIGHTFUL romp thru a twisted plot
Good read to pass time
must read all her books!
Start at the beginning so that you have the full story of Agatha and James. You won't be sorry. Also, check out fellow Beaton detective Hamish MacBeth's adventures. Just as enjoyable as the Agatha series.
Agatha is a hoot, and I am going to take the time anyday to go around the block to purchase a book with her new adventures. This book will not disappoint Agatha fans, and may I dare to say, I think Agatha got a little wiser with marriage. I'm 'just hoping' that a new book is right around the corner to see what that girl is doing this summer.