Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham
Martin's Minotaur (Paperback), ISBN 0-312-97062-5
Whiny, chainsmoking, irresponsible and lovelorn Agatha Raisin visits a new hairdresser, Mr. John -- the wizard of the title. In only one of an endless series of Agatha's tedious trips to restaurants -- three in the first thirty pages -- Mr. John woos her, flatters her and persuades her to help him open a new salon. But he dies at her next hair appointment. (Agatha gets her hair done almost as often as she eats.) The police declare it murder.
Agatha and her friend (to use the term very loosely) Charles already suspected Mr. John of being a blackmailer, evidently because doing so presented an excuse to go snooping. Together Agatha and Charles fill most of the remainder of the book with their artless, interchangeable, and uninformative visits to assorted women they believe were involved with Mr. John. The visits all follow the same basic pattern:
Woman: Go away.
Agatha: We believe the late Mr. John blackmailed you.
Woman: Why, indeed he did! Come into my home, perfect stranger, and I'll spill my guts out to you.
There seem to be at least 40 of these scene-lets, but in reality there were only eight. Or 12. Or 20. Or maybe 40, after all. In any case, they all read the same and shed no light on the identity of the murderer.
The book jacket promotes the comic elements of Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham. Comic moments occur, but author Beaton fails to follow through on most of them. Quite frankly, I found Agatha's speculation about air conditioners in America -- $30,000 for a home unit, and $3,000 for a window unit, as she understood it -- the funniest part of the book. Umm, I don't think so.
The book also offers readers the first chapter of the next Agatha Raisin mystery. Unfortunately, from what I saw, Agatha's next adventure differs little from its predecessor.
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