This review is for the unabridged audiobook narrated by Penelope Keith.
When she finds her latest beau dead from snakebite, Agatha Raisin sets out with her trademark acid tongue to find the murderer - and to have a chat with some of the other women in his life. In this tongue in cheek take on the world of amateur sleuths such as Miss Marple, MC Beaton provides us with a decent well written plot, with some nice twists and turns, and believable characters. The joy of the story is the sense of humour, and Agatha's constant stream of acerbicness. It's an entertaining story.
Having played MC Beaton's detective creation in a radio series, Penelope Keith seems a natural choice for narrating this audiobook version of her 23rd adventure. The vocal characterisation is great, especially for Agatha herself. She is an actress of versatility and able to imbue the different characters with a unique voice. The six hours just sail by.
The set contains 6 discs, in a case about the size of a double jewel case. In all a great way to pass 6 hours in the car.
While I have heard a few of the Agatha Raisin series but not all of them, and certainly not in order, I find I don't need to know what happened in the previous books to enjoy the latest one. Where you need to know about the past, it tells you so newcomers need not feel they need start with the first book in the series.
There is a great imagination at work here; the characters are varied, the plot largely unpredictable, the mysteries original and the writing brilliant. There are one or two catch phrases but, despite being huge, there is no repetitive or clichéd dialog and each section feels new if somewhat detached from reality. It pays scant regard to forensics, CCTV, autopsies, experts or the fantastic tricks with computers that variously dominate many crime dramas and concentrates instead on intuition, witness statements and guesses.
If you're looking for a gritty, realistic crime drama Agatha Raisin is certainly not it. `Hiss and Hers' cannot quite be called `gentle' it's certainly genteel, set in a largely upper-middleclass village where people have money and are not tied to grim, nine to five jobs. With the rural idyll and titled persons, combined with the style of detection, there is more of Miss Marple here than there is of CSI, but it would be unfair to say it is like Miss Marple. Agatha is her own woman.
Penelope Keith, who also stars as Agatha in the BBC radio dramatisations, is the only voice used in this unabridged reading and while she's brilliant as Agatha and good as the many of the other characters she can give a whining, sometimes almost screeching, caricature of a voice to some of the lesser characters, especially those who are common. Otherwise her performance is good.
The CD set is supplied in the usual Audio Go oversized box with all the disks stacked on a single spindle, the only drawback to it being it is too tall to fit in a normal CD rack. I find this a particular nuisance in the car as I have to leave the box lying around on whatever surface is not in use.
This is a decent audio book, but it is not much more than that. I prefer the BBC full cast dramatisations to the readings by Penelope Keith but they are usually quite good, though I've enjoyed some of the others more than this one. I did not find myself falling into the story and wanting to find out what comes next. Good, but not great.
on 31 October 2012
I've read every Agatha Raisin book and until this one found M C Beaton's strange vision of a Gloucestershire village quite entertaining. I live in one and I dont think it is meant to be authentic; I suspect she is writing for the US market where she worked as a journalist for several years. However I think she has disrespected her readers this time. Her writing (which is never all that brilliant) is appalling and has none of the charm of the other books. If there is another in the series I'll give her one last chance but if MC doesn't raise her game I'm done with her and wont move on to her other series as I planned to do.
on 2 May 2016
Was waiting for the end lots of possible suspects including characters that you have never heard of and it has to have on going explanation of why they are suspects felt as though they were included to bulk the book out.
on 17 March 2013
I was really looking forward to this latest Agatha Raisin book and I'm a bit disappointed with the content. Everything seemed same old same old. I think dear old Aggie should part company with the detective agency and go back to lone snooping. Take up an unusual hobby, give man hunting a miss, and change her door locks again.
on 7 November 2012
I am a fan of Agatha Raisin, but was a little disappointed in her latest adventure. It had too many plot twists and the ending did not have the usual suspense. I had hoped for a stronger story.
on 23 January 2013
I find Agatha Raisin a rather unpleasant character on the written page, but Penelope Keith's deliciously acidic delivery of MC Beatons most difficult character is a wonderful listen during the daily commute. I'll be trying the earlier audio books in the near future.
This is the first time I have listened to an audio tape of an Agatha story and I was extremely impressed by Penelope Keith's ability to turn a slight story into a very pleasurable listening event - enjoyable even though I was ironing every time I switched on! A few years back one of the members of my local reading group recommended Agatha Raisin as an antidote to a particularly dire read we had just finished. The Agatha Raisin stores are definitely not great literature but light hearted fun and Agatha's ability to fall in love with the most unsuitable people is becomes more enjoyable the more of her adventures you read. This is - I think - about her twenty third adventure & predictably enough she falls for a new arrival to her home town, George a handsome gardener. Unfortunately for agatha,despite his apparent partiality for middle aged ladies he seems to be immune to her charms and rather desperate overtures. Disappointed by his failure to turn up to a village event she tracks him down to his compost heap where he lies murdered! Naturally Agatha perceives it to be her `duty' to find George's murderer - does she succeed - read or listen and find out! Keith's own voice is absolutely `right' for Agatha but it is her ability to vocalise the other characters that makes these CDs. I have listened to other tapes where the reader [if male] is really bad at voicing female characters or [if female] really bad at voicing men. Keith slips effortlessly from one to the other. I shall definitely be seeking out other stories read by Penelope Keith.fjs
Very occasionally, you come across something that proves really quite a pleasant surprise and this certainly applies to Agatha Raisin.
I had seen the books in my local Waterstones but had dismissed them as possible beach reads and probably would have remained ignorant of her excellent detective agency had it not been for receiving this audio book and settling down to listen to the story on car journeys to and from work.
Penelope Keith as the narrator is the ideal person to portray Agatha and tell her story and I was struck to find the character rang chords of sympathy with me. This is like Miss Marple but with a little more bite and brought bang up to date - this time with a middle-aged divorcee with bear like eyes who indulges in non-surgical facelifts. Agatha runs a detective agency in a Cotswold village and, when the story opens, she has fallen hopelessly in love with the village handyman, George. Unfortunately, he fails to reciprocate despite her efforts but she later discovers that his attentions have been widespread.
Agatha plans a ball to entrap George but he is found murdered and, from then on, the story continues with a large gallery of suspects. We have a soap star and a fair number of village ladies who would appear likely candidates and our heroine is determined to find the guilty party.
Adding to the amusement, is the appearance of James, the ex husband and her would be boyfriend, Sir Charles Fraith, who is incredibly mean. There are also the detective agency employees, the star struck Simon, and Toni who get into terrible scrapes. Into the mix also goes a listening device, a vexed vicar, the local police, further murders and some attempted ones plus Agatha's cats (and the odd lost one). This is indeed a convoluted tale but it does not bore for a minute.
After six hours' listening the story concludes with a satisfying ending. I was pleased and, who knows, I may even go and buy some of the actual books?
Yes, definitely worth a listen.
I managed to acquire this book in audio format. It is read by the excellent Penelope Keith, who, several years ago, was my first introduction to the Agatha Raisin stories, when I chanced upon a reading on BBC Radio 4 Extra. She was, consequently, my first impression of Agatha but, I genuinely believe that it would have been Ms Keith's voice that I would have put to the feisty detective even were I to have encountered the books, prior to the radio series. I might well have had the actress in my mind's eye too, even allowing for the fact that she is rather more attractive than the description of our eponymous sleuth.
If you are new to this series of crimes, you will soon decide as to whether they are to your taste, or no: they are gently humorous tales without graphic detail of horrendous torture, mutilation and painful death, as seems almost a pre-requisite of most modern day crime fiction. Police procedure is also noticeable by its absence. The characters, whilst exaggerated versions of real people, are much more important, and the crime is, inevitably, solved by Raisin's understanding of the criminals mindset. Do not buy these books if you are after glamour, fast moving World wide trips to the exotic and explicit scenes of a sexual nature because, you will be seriously disappointed. Mrs Raisin has a very different temperament to Agatha Christie's Marple, but the idea of events unfolding within a quite St Mary Mead type village are very similar.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story, as I have other books in the series. Ms. Beaton has that ability, shared with the best detective fiction writers, of being able to lead the reader up the garden path and then, allowing him/her to arrive at a solution, a paragraph or so before the detective. I shall not give any details herein as to whom the murderer of George Marston, the philandering gardener, might be; I would be amaze, however, were you to rumble the denouement ahead of the final chapter.
Personally, I should have bought the paper version of this work, as I prefer to read than to listen but, the six one hour discs are superbly narrated, as one would expect, by Penelope Keith (I haven't let slip my attraction to this actress, have I?) and the inclination to spend an entire day listening to them, one after another, was almost, too great to resist. I must, guiltily admit that I shall listen to these discs more than once - I am blessed with a brain that can remember all sorts of trivia, but which manages to obliterate all reminiscence of the last few pages of a whodunnit within a few days!
A good entertaining read/listen - first class!