Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Busy Body (Agatha Raisin Series #21)

Busy Body (Agatha Raisin Series #21)

3.8 36
by M. C. Beaton

See All Formats & Editions

Cranky yet lovable Agatha Raisin has always been ambivalent about holiday cheer, though her cozy village of Carsely has long prided itself on its Christmas festivities. Until now. This year, local Health and Safety Board officer John Sunday is threatening to undo some of Carsley's most time-honored traditions. The tree on top of the church? A public menace. The


Cranky yet lovable Agatha Raisin has always been ambivalent about holiday cheer, though her cozy village of Carsely has long prided itself on its Christmas festivities. Until now. This year, local Health and Safety Board officer John Sunday is threatening to undo some of Carsley's most time-honored traditions. The tree on top of the church? A public menace. The decorations hanging on the lampposts? Hazardous. Even May Dimwoody's homemade toys are deemed unsafe for the children. Bah humbug! The Carsely Ladies Society is in an uproar and will do anything to put a stop to this Scrooge—only to find that someone else has done it for them…with a kitchen knife. Soon Agatha's detective agency is on the case. But when a man has made as many enemies as Mr. John Sunday, it's hard to know where to start—or how to stop the killer from striking again.

M.C. Beaton's Busy Body continues the wildly popular Agatha Raisin mystery series.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In bestseller Beaton's terrific 21st Agatha Raisin mystery (after 2009's There Goes the Bride), the fiercely formidable private detective and her perky young protégé, Toni Gilmour, look into the stabbing murder of John "Grudge" Sunday, a Mircester health and safety board officer, outside a joint meeting of two Cotswolds ladies' societies. The unpopular Sunday had put a pall on the holidays by stopping the annual custom of erecting a Christmas tree atop the Carsely church tower. Millionaire and prime suspect Miriam Courtney, who threatened to kill Sunday, hires Agatha to clear her name. Complications ensue after someone strikes Miriam a fatal blow to the head. Beaton, the pen name for Marion Chesney, does a brilliant job of depicting Agatha's struggles with aging and keeping her detective agency afloat. Her romantic upheavals (will she ever marry close friend Sir Charles Fraith?) continue to tantalize. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

“Beaton ... does a brilliant job of depicting Agatha's struggles with aging and keeping her detective agency afloat. Her romantic upheavals (will she ever marry close friend Sir Charles Fraith?) continue to tantalize.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Testy Agatha, continuing her habit of falling for unsuitable men, scores again with a cunning mixture of satire and mystery.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Beaton ... does a brilliant job of depicting Agatha's struggles with aging and keeping her detective agency afloat. Her romantic upheavals (will she ever marry close friend Sir Charles Fraith?) continue to tantalize.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

Library Journal
When John Sunday of the Health and Safety Board declares that the village's traditional Christmas tree is a menance to public safety, he makes many enemies—even one who decides to kill him. This is the 21st entry (after There Goes the Bride) in Beaton's popular cozy series; purchase according to demand.
Kirkus Reviews

Agatha Raisin's latest case (There Goes the Bride, 2009, etc.)pits her against the residents of a quaint village who want to see no evil.

Her Christmas vacation abroad having proved a bust, Agatha returns early to Carsley, where a friend drags her to a Ladies Society meeting at nearby Odley Cruesis to discuss the problems with overzealous Health and Safety Board inspector John Sunday. The meeting at the vicarage is boring until Sunday appears at a window and is found stabbed outside. The next day, wealthy widow Miriam Courtney skis over to ask Agatha to solve the murder. Many people were furious with Sunday, but most of them have alibis. Although the police warn her off, Agatha and her detective agency staff begin sleuthing. When Miriam's manor house is burned to the ground with her inside, her son Tom, arriving from New York, hires Agatha to investigate his mother's death. Though she's attracted to Tom, Agatha is a bit put off by his prissy ways. Her friend Sir Charles and Toni Gilmour, her best young detective, add their skills to the mix. Toni, upset by the murder of a friend whom Agatha fired for drug use, perks up when Agatha hires a clever young man for Toni to train. Another Christmas arrives before Agatha and her cohorts finally figure out whodunit.

Testy Agatha, continuing her habit of falling for unsuitable men,scores again with a cunning mixture of satire and mystery.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Agatha Raisin Series , #21
Sold by:
Sales rank:
File size:
221 KB

Read an Excerpt

Busy Body

An Agatha Raisin Mystery

By M. C. Beaton

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2010 M. C. Beaton
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-4474-8


Having found that her love for her ex-husband, James Lacey, had more or less disappeared, Agatha Raisin, middle-aged owner of a detective agency in the English Cotswolds, decided to hit another obsession on the head.

For the past two years she had been determined to create the perfect Christmas, the full Dickensian dream, with disappointing results. So she decided to flee Christmas by taking a long holiday in Corsica. Her second in command, young Toni Gilmour, was more than capable of dealing with the usual run of dreary divorce cases and missing pets, the bread and butter of the agency.

Agatha had booked a room in a hotel in the town of Porto Vecchio at the south of the Mediterranean island. She had Googled the information and found that it was an old Genoese town with a winter temperature in the low sixties Fahrenheit.

She arrived at the hotel late because it took her more than an hour to find a taxi at Figari Airport. Agatha looked forward to celebrating Christmas with a lobster dinner. No more turkey.

The receptionist at the hotel greeted her with, "I see you've booked in with us for three weeks. Why?"

Agatha blinked. "Why? I'm on holiday."

"But what are you going to do?" asked the receptionist. "Most of the shops and restaurants are closed. You don't have a car. There aren't that many taxis, and the ones that there are don't like short trips."

"I'll think about it," said Agatha wearily. "I'm hungry. Do you have a restaurant?"

"No, but if you go out of the hotel and turn right and then next left it will take you up to the citadel and there are a few restaurants there."

Agatha left her luggage and set off on the steep climb up to the citadel. The Christmas decorations were the most beautiful she had ever seen, but the streets were deserted. She reached the square in the centre of the old citadel. There were two restaurants open and, in the middle of the square, an empty skating rink where men were pouring water on the surface of the ice so that it would freeze overnight. Agatha's spirits sank even lower. She had not imagined Corsica ever getting cold enough for ice to freeze.

There was a heated area for smokers facing one restaurant. She sat down and ordered a meal which turned out to be nothing special and came to forty-two euros, which, thanks to the falling sterling, meant it cost her the equivalent of forty-two pounds.

She sat and puffed on a cigarette and debated whether to hire a car or not. The trouble was Agatha could not parallel park. In fact, she felt happy only when there was an empty parking space that could take the size of a truck. The cars she had seen parked were all tight together. How on earth did they manage to get out without damaging the cars parked up against them, front and back?

Agatha did not want to admit failure. She did not want to return home and say she had made a mistake. A good night's sleep was all she needed. She trudged back to the hotel through the deserted streets under the sparkling golden halo of Christmas decorations around every street lamp.

The next day was sunny. After a good breakfast, Agatha asked directions to the port, where she was sure there must be delicious seafood. "There's a quick way down from the citadel," said the receptionist, "but it's terribly steep."Agatha's arthritic hip gave a nasty twinge. "What about round by the road?" she asked. "How long would that take?"

"About half an hour."

So Agatha set out. And walked and walked and walked until an hour and a half later, she found herself at the port. There was a restaurant open, but no lobster. She ordered a salmon steak, the special of the day, reflecting that she could easily have got the same thing back home in England. At the end of the meal, she hopefully asked the waitress to phone for a taxi. But the result was no taxi would take her. "They only like long trips from town to town," said the waitress.

So Agatha decided to try the shortcut up to the citadel. It was incredibly steep. At one point, she could have sworn the pavement was staring her in the face. The pain in her hip was severe and she panted for breath the whole way up. When she reached the square in the citadel, she sank down into a chair in a restaurant and ordered a beer. She took out a packet of cigarettes and then put them away again. She was still gasping from the climb up.

I have to get out of here, she thought. Bonifacio is supposed to be beautiful. Dammit. I'll hire a car and go there. There's bound to be lobster there.

Back at the hotel, she checked Bonifacio on her laptop. She read that the harbour was exclusive and sophisticated with many good restaurants. There was an old medieval town on the cliff above the harbour. There did not seem to be many hotels open but she found one that looked promising and booked a room, saying cautiously she did not know how long she would be staying.

As she drove off at dawn the following morning in her rented car, she was glad of the deserted roads and the fact that the route to Bonifacio was well signposted. As the sun rose on another perfect day and her car climbed up into the mountains, Agatha felt happy. It was all going to be all right.

The hotel turned out to be outside the town. She was given a small house in the grounds of the hotel, like a fairy house, made of old stone with a red tiled roof. There was a large living room, bedroom and a bathroom with an enormous bath. The hotel served only dinner, so once unpacked, Agatha drove down to the port.

Practically all the restaurants were closed. In the short time since her arrival, the sky had darkened and a freezing wind was bending the palm trees in the port and singing in the shrouds of the yachts moored alongside the quay. Agatha had lunch in one of the few restaurants. The food was good — but no lobster. Determined to visit the old town, after lunch Agatha drove up into it and found herself in a terrifying maze of very narrow streets. Several times she nearly scraped the car. Several times she nearly lost her way before, with a sigh of relief, finally finding the route to the port again. Rain was slashing against the windscreen.

"Sod this for a game of soldiers," Agatha howled to the uncaring elements. "I'm going home."

By the time she got to Charles de Gaulle, she had a sore throat and was cursing that she now had to leave by terminal E2 instead of the former 2F. The terminal is huge and bewildering and the check-in, chaotic. The only bright spot was when the man checking her bags through security asked to see her passport. He studied her photograph. "This, madame," he said, "is the photograph of a beautiful woman, and you are even more beautiful today."

Agatha, accustomed to the French ability to flirt, answered, "Monsieur, such a compliment coming from a handsome man like yourself makes me feel beautiful." He smiled, everyone in security smiled, and Agatha felt a glow. Aren't the French marvellous when it comes to flirting, she thought. It's a technique we lost in Britain as soon as the birth control pill arrived on the scene. Flirt with a man back home and all you get is, Enough of this nonsense, drop your drawers.

The gate for the flight to Birmingham was down in the basement. Then all the passengers were put on a bus that took so long to reach the plane that Agatha wondered whether they were going all the way to Calais.

* * *

As she drove down the road leading to Carsely, towards her cottage, she thought, I can ignore Christmas here just as well as I could in Corsica. But Agatha automatically looked for the Christmas tree on top of the church tower. No Christmas tree. She blinked in surprise. Every year, the lights of the Carsely Christmas tree on top of the square church tower had shone out over the surrounding landscape. She circled the village green. Even the Christmas tree, which usually stood there in December, was missing, as were the fairy lights, usually strung across the main street of the village.

Agatha mentally shrugged. They had probably come to their senses and were all fed up with all the commercial hoo-ha of Christmas. Still, the church could hardly be accused of being commercial. She did not know then that there was only one man behind the darkness, one man who was going to bring death and fear into the Cotswolds.

It had all started the day after she had left for Corsica. The vicar, Alf Bloxby, with two sturdy helpers, was mounting the steep stairs to the church roof, carrying a Christmas tree. Once up on the top of the tower, they were just looking for the cables kept in a chest on the tower roof to anchor the tree, when a voice from the doorway to the tower cried, "Stop!"

Alf turned round in surprise. Standing in the doorway was Mr. John Sunday, an officer with the Health and Safety Board based in Mircester.

"You can't put that tree up," he said. "It's a danger to the public. It could fall off the tower and kill someone."

Mr. Sunday was a small, barrel-chested man with a pugnacious face and thick pepper-and-salt hair. "I am within my rights as an officer of the Mircester Health and Safety Board," he said. "If you persist in erecting that tree, I will have you taken to court. Furthermore I am putting red tape round the gravestones in the churchyard."

"Why on earth?" exclaimed Alf.

"Because they might fall over."

"Look here, you stupid man, those gravestones have been standing for hundreds of years without falling over."

"A gravestone fell over in a cemetery in Yorkshire and injured someone. It is my job to ensure safety."

"Oh, go away," said Alf wearily. "Come on, men. Let's get this tree up."

But two days later the vicar received an official letter from the Health and Safety Board telling him he must take down the tree or face court proceedings.

The Carsely parish council was then informed that if they wished to put up fairy lights along the main street, they were not to use ladders. A cherry picker had to be used instead by two trained workers, which would have cost the village one thousand two hundred pounds in training fees, plus their wages and the cost of the equipment. Every light fitting must undergo a "pull test" using expensive special equipment to make sure it was strong enough. Lamp posts were deemed unsafe for hanging illuminations.

John Sunday earned the nickname of Grudge Sunday as his unpopularity grew. The village shop was told it could no longer have wooden shelves which had been there since the time of Queen Victoria "in case someone ran their hands along the shelves and got a splinter." The village school was ordered to leave lights on at night "in case unauthorised intruders tripped over in the dark."

And children were warned not to play with "counterfeit banknotes" after playing with toy money that did not show a picture of the queen.

Grudge Sunday swelled in importance after each report. He thought the hatred directed towards him by the villagers of Carsely was prompted by envy.

All this Agatha learned when she called on her friend, Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar's wife, a day after she had arrived home. But to Mrs. Bloxby's surprise, Agatha did not seem particularly interested in the iniquities of Grudge Sunday. In fact Agatha did not seem to be interested in anything. When asked when she was going back to work, Agatha said listlessly, "Probably sometime in the New Year."

Mrs. Bloxby had often wished that her friend would grow out of her silly obsessions, but, she thought, Agatha without an obsession seemed gutted somehow.

Agatha Raisin still presented a smart appearance. She had thick, glossy brown hair, good skin, excellent legs, but a rather thick waist and small brown bearlike eyes. She was wearing a tailored dark blue cashmere trouser suit over a gold silk blouse. But her generous mouth was turned down at the corners and her eyes were dull.

"Our Ladies Society is having a meeting with the Odley Cruesis society tonight. Do come along. They come under the rule of Mr. Sunday, and they wish us to join forces to see if there is something we can do. You haven't been to the society for ages."

"I won't know anyone," said Agatha. "People keep selling up and the incomers get older and older."

"Apart from myself and Miss Simms," said Mrs. Bloxby, "you never cared much for the last lot. Oh, do come along." Her usually mild and pleasant voice took on an edge. "What else are you going to do? Sit at home and brood?" Agatha gave her friend a startled look. In the tradition of the society they addressed each other by their second names, dating from some now long-forgotten time when the use of first names had been considered vulgar.

"I just can't seem to get interested in anything or anyone," sighed Agatha. "All right, I'll drive you over. I've never been to Odley Cruesis."

"It's a pretty village. Nice people. The meeting is to be held in the vicarage. The vicar's wife, Penelope Timson, is an excellent baker. Her cakes are the talk of the neighbourhood."

Odley Cruesis was situated ten miles from Carsely, reached along winding roads glittering with frost. With its old Tudor thatched houses, it seemed a little part of England that time had forgotten. To Agatha's dismay, cars were parked bumper to bumper outside the vicarage. "I'll never be able to park," she moaned.

"Yes, you will," said Mrs. Bloxby. "There's a space right there."

"I'm not driving a Mini," said Agatha.

"Let me. I'll park it for you."

Agatha got out and Mrs. Bloxby got into the driver's seat and then parked Agatha's Rover neatly between two cars, leaving only inches on either end.

Agatha walked up to the vicarage. She could faintly hear the chatter of voices. She sighed. Cakes and boredom. Why had she come?

The vicarage drawing room was large. There seemed to be around twenty-five people there. But apart from Miss Simms, Agatha could not recognise anyone else from Carsely. Mrs. Bloxby whispered in a disappointed voice that they must have decided not to attend. Agatha waved to Miss Simms, Carsely's unmarried mother, who was wearing a very short skirt, pixie boots, one of those fake French fisherman's jerseys, and long dangling earrings. There was a log fire on the hearth giving out a dim glow and occasionally sending puffs of smoke into the room.

Agatha refused tea and cakes. She could not be bothered to balance a teacup and plate. All the comfortable chairs had been taken up. Extra hard chairs had been brought in. Agatha sat down in a hard chair and wondered how long this wretched evening was going to last. The room was cold. Long French windows had been let into one wall of the old building and she could see steam from the breaths of all the cold visitors beginning to form on the glass.

A new arrival was being greeted with great enthusiasm. Agatha judged her to be in her seventies. She had leathery brown skin criss-crossed with wrinkles, thick black hair streaked with grey, and sparkling blue-grey eyes. "Freezing out there," she said, divesting herself of her coat and pashmina. "They say we're going to have a blizzard tonight."

"Who is she and what's that accent?" asked Agatha.

"She's Mrs. Miriam Courtney, widow, South African, millionaire," whispered Mrs. Bloxby. "She bought the manor house here about two years ago."

Miriam looked brightly around the room. "Am I expected to sit on one of those bum-numbing seats?"

"Have my chair," said Miss Simms eagerly, surrendering her armchair.

Agatha felt a twinge of jealousy.

"Goodness, it's cold," said Miriam. "You've got coal in the scuttle over there. Why not throw some of that on the fire and get up a blaze?"

"It's not smokeless," protested Penelope Timson, a tall thin woman with very large hands and feet and stooped shoulders, as if she had become bent after years of bending down to speak to smaller parishioners. She was wearing two cardigans over a sweater, a baggy tweed skirt, and woollen stockings which ended surprisingly in a pair of fluffy pink slippers in the shape of two large pink mice. "You know what Mr. Sunday is like. He tours around looking for smoke. We're supposed to burn smokeless."

"Oh, never mind him. Courage. Chuck on a few lumps," urged Miriam.

Bowing to a stronger will, Penelope picked up the tongs and deposited a few lumps. A blaze sprang up but the fire smoked even more.

"Damn, I brought brandy and I've left it in the car. I'll go and get it," said Miriam. "Don't wait for me. Get started."

"I thought we weren't supposed to drink and drive," muttered Agatha.

"She's probably thinking of herself," said Mrs. Bloxby. "She can walk home. I wonder why she bothered to drive."


Excerpted from Busy Body by M. C. Beaton. Copyright © 2010 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.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Beaton ... does a brilliant job of depicting Agatha's struggles with aging and keeping her detective agency afloat. Her romantic upheavals (will she ever marry close friend Sir Charles Fraith?) continue to tantalize."—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) "Testy Agatha, continuing her habit of falling for unsuitable men, scores again with a cunning mixture of satire and mystery."—Kirkus Reviews "Beaton is a master of the cozy formula — there are plenty of red herrings, a large cast of suspects and an eagle-eye view of village life."—RT Book Reviews

Meet the Author

M. C. Beaton has been hailed as "the new Queen of Crime." She is the New York Times bestselling author of the Agatha Raisin mysteries, including A Spoonful of Poison and As the Pig Turns. She has also written more than 100 historical romance novels under the name Marion Chesney. Before writing her first novels, Beaton worked as a bookseller, a newspaper reporter and fashion critic, and a waitress in a greasy spoon. Born in Scotland, she currently divides her time between Paris and a village in the English Cotswolds. She was selected the British Guest of Honor for the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in 2006.
M. C. Beaton, who was the British guest of honor at Bouchercon 2006, has been hailed as the "Queen of Crime" (The Globe and Mail). In addition to her New York Times and USA Today bestselling Agatha Raisin novels, Beaton is the author of the Hamish Macbeth series and four Edwardian mysteries. Born in Scotland, she currently divides her time between the English Cotswolds and Paris.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Busy Body 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This Agatha Raisin mystery is one of my least favorite, with a very fragmented story meandering in many directions. There's more focus on Agatha Raisin's personal sex life than the mystery. Agatha just had hip replacement surgery but it somehow does not stop her from going headlong into chasing another new man in town. She is about to have sex with the guy and she thinks she should have gotten a Brazillian wax job! Her soon to be partner asks her if she has had any sexual diseases and states that he prefers women with no hair......on their nether regions! So does that sound like a Miss Marple to you? Me neither. Agatha Raisin, in addition to being rather promiscuous at 55 years old, is really really nasty. When she finds out the guy has been murdered, she's RELIEVED because she won't have to face the embarassment of a failed one-night stand!! She cold, calculating and self-absorbed. Her only reason for wanting to solve the crime is to get close to her perpetual on-again, off-again lover, James Lacey. They illegally break into homes and tamper with evidence. If you like this sort of book, then go for it. You might want to check your locak Library first. As you can tell, she's not Miss Marple!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't think there could possibly be a more annoying character than Lyn Hamilton's heroine until I found the heroine, of the Iris House mysteries. Then I didn't think there could possibly be one worse than Tess in Iris House until along came Toni Gilmour in the Agatha Raisin Mysteries. That one has caused me to stop buying the Agatha Raisin mysteries and to view the next Hamish Macbeth with dread for fear Beaton has felt compelled to introduce a permanent, secondary character, full of angst with which the reader is expected to sympathize, and which changes Macbeth's character and detracts from it.
Famfatale More than 1 year ago
A light read, not my favorite of the series, but they can't all be great.
Suetalk More than 1 year ago
I received this book on Thursday and finished it on Friday. Aggie is vulnerable, nosy and right in the thick of things again. A very fun read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have enjoyed this series so much and chuckle about the quirks of Agatha as she goes about attempting to understand other characters and solve a mystery.
Disappointedereader More than 1 year ago
I think I received a condensed version of the book. Disappointed!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You can always be assured of a fun read with M. C. Beaton whether it's Agatha solving cases in the Cotswolds or Hamish Macbeth keeping the highlands free of crime.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first of this series that I have read. I will read at least one more to see if the entire series is good enough to buy. This one was mildly interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago