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Agatha Throws Her Ax into the Battle of the Sexes
on 20 August 2007
How would you feel if your spouse asked for a divorce so he or she could become a monk or a nun? That's where Agatha Raisin was left at the end of Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell. As you can imagine, the experience didn't leave Agatha feeling too cheerful. She decides she needs to get away from it all and her travel agent persuades her to visit remote Robinson Crusoe Island in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago off Chile (where Alexander Selkirk was marooned and became the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe). Agatha makes friends, despite her lack of Spanish and can almost forget James Lacey (her ex-husband) for awhile. But she's troubled by a honeymooning couple where the husband seems to be waiting for something . . . only to discover that he drowned his new bride but a few days later.
Back in Carsely, Agatha realizes she desperate needs beauty treatments and even signs up for a Pilates class. Feeling bereft, Agatha decides to take up her PR career again and calls Roy Silver, her former assistant.
But fate intervenes when huge rains cause a terrible flood in Evesham, and Agatha recognizes a fellow customer from the beautician's (an engaged young woman named Kylie) dead, floating across the face of the flood in her wedding dress and holding a bouquet of flowers. Shaken up by the experience, Agatha decides to investigate after the police notice that the body has been frozen for some time in addition to showing signs of a heroin overdose. Could the healthy looking young Kylie have been an addict? Agatha doubts it. Agatha is disappointed to realize she'll have no one to help her now that James is gone and Sir Charles Fraith (an ex-lover and sometime sleuthing partner) has gotten married to a young Frenchwoman who is expecting twins.
Remembering the couple on Robinson Crusoe Island, Agatha immediately suspects Kylie's fiancé (who had seemed a bit domineering in his demand she get a bikini wax job) but is impressed by the depth of his grief.
Her new neighbor John Armitage, a successful mystery novelist, becomes a distraction for Agatha . . . even after she tries to avoid meeting him in a series of humorous misunderstandings.
Unable to feel confident in moving forward without an ally, Agatha recruits Roy Silver to be her investigating partner and dons a wig and glasses while pretending to be a television researcher looking into doing a program about the social lives of the young in Evesham.
The investigation turns dark as Agatha finds that her life is in danger and that Kylie wasn't such a perfect young lady after all. Through the course of the checking out, Agatha has more than her usual problem avoiding police ire while the danger rises.
While some will point to this as primarily a cozy mystery, that element is more background than foreground in this story. Instead, Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came is a portrait of a bright, determined woman (with more than a few rough edges) who finds that she doesn't quite fit into today's world of male-female relationships while she indulges in romantic fantasies that aren't going to come true. Where will Agatha find peace and satisfaction? Where will any of us?
M. C. Beaton portrays men in primarily negative lights throughout the Agatha Raisin series (Bill Wong, Agatha's police detective friend is the rare exception). By building up John Armitage as a new character in the series, there's simply a new color to the rainbow of disapproval. As a result, I didn't find the parts of the story that develop that character or Agatha's relationship with him to be very rewarding.
The mystery is also pretty simple to solve. After you finish the book, you'll be astounded that the police didn't solve the mystery on their own before Agatha did. The police investigation seems to have been particularly superficial and lightly analyzed.
Unless you cannot bear to miss a single word about Agatha Raisin, you could skip this book and not miss much.