Top critical review
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Agatha Plays House
on 28 June 2007
I found Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley to be a much less successful book than the earlier three books in the series. The mystery can barely qualify as one. Agatha is an unpleasant terror for much of the book (which makes for less than happy reading). The new characters are unsympathetic. The victim is particularly so.
So should you read the book? Yes, you're stuck. The book contains a lot of development in the Agatha Raisin-James Lacey relationship that will leave you high and dry if you skip Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley. Sorry.
During Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet, Agatha agreed to work in PR again in London in exchange for surreptitious help with her ruined garden. As this book opens, Agatha is finishing up her six-month stint in London at Pedmans, the firm that bought out her PR old firm. It's been an unpleasant experience and her final dinner leaves a bad taste for everyone but the client.
In Dembley (part of Gloucestershire), the cause-devoted, militant Jessica Tartinck is organizing the Dembley Walkers (a ramblers society) into another planned confrontation with a landowner who has blocked the public way while armed with a shotgun. Jessica savors the chance to make a splash. The others aren't so enthusiastic. After that meeting, her written challenge to Sir Charles Fraith is returned with an invitation to tea if the ramblers will avoid one of his fields that has been planted. Jessica's friend Deborah Camden is sent to check out the path. Jessica decides to ask permission first and captures the attention of Sir Charles who asks for her telephone number. Thoroughly charmed, Deborah recommends that they go along with Sir Charles and the other ramblers agree . . . except for Jessica who decides to challenge him on her own.
Meanwhile, Agatha returns to Carsely and finds that her handsome next-door neighbor, middle-aged bachelor James Lacey, has also been leading walks. She immediately joins the group and irritates him again by trying to organize things.
Soon thereafter, Jessica is found murdered in Sir Charles' field and a witness places Sir Charles in the vicinity. Concerned for her new friend, Deborah calls on her friendship with Mrs. Mason, head of the Carsely Ladies Society, seeks to engage Agatha to find the killer. Before long, Agatha and James are operating undercover, posing as a married couple, to penetrate the Dembley Walkers.
In the process, Agatha finds it frustrating to be pretending what she so desperately wants . . . to be Mrs. James Lacey. James, in turn, finds the whole matter even more annoying for different reasons.
Before the book ends, Agatha finds herself in a race to stop a murder.
Those who like romantic mysteries with an emphasis on "romantic" may find this book to be a four-star effort.