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Fictional detective Agatha Raisin is back in another cozy British mystery adventure, “Down the Hatch.” Marion Chesney (a.k.a. M.C. Beaton), the creator of this character, died at the age of 83 in 2019, but her series has been continued by the author’s good friend, R. W. Green. In a foreword to the book, Green informs readers about how he came to collaborate and eventually take over writing the series.
“When I first started working with Marion,” writes Green, “she was recovering from an illness that made sitting at a keyboard putting her ideas into words utterly exhausting. Having known her for many years, it was a pleasure for me to be able to help. She encouraged me to chip in ideas, too.” As the collaboration grew, it made sense for Green to continue the series. “Marion put a lot of herself into Agatha, although any of her own character traits were exaggerated. Agatha says and does things that Marion never would have but may often have wanted to.”
In this newest book in the series, a dead body is found outside at the local lawn bowls club. Agatha, who happens to be in the vicinity, is drawn to the scene by the sound of a woman screaming from the shock of this discovery. Hurrying to help and checking for vital signs, it’s clear that the man is dead. An empty bottle of rum lies nearby.
The victim, known locally by his nickname “the Admiral,” is Harry Nelson, a well-known member and a past president of the club. In asking a few questions at the clubhouse, Agatha discovers there are divergent opinions about what kind of man the deceased was. One member sighs and says the Admiral “was the best thing to ever happen to this club.” Another member completely contradicts that statement, exclaiming that the dead man “was a drunken monster.”
A consistent barrier to Agatha’s private detective work is her antagonistic relationship with Detective Chief Inspector Wilkes of the local law enforcement agency. When he sees Agatha at the scene of the crime, he issues a warning: “Don’t try to turn this accident into one of your pathetic pantomimes!”
“Accident? How do you know it was an accident?” Agatha demands.
“Pah!” exclaims Wilkes. “You’d have to be a fool not to see that this is just some old soak who drank himself to death.”
When Agatha later speaks to Bill Wong, who is an old friend as well as her most trusted contact in the police department, he assures her that there is no sign of foul play, even though the coroner determines the cause of death is poisoning. It’s thought that the Admiral mistakenly drank some weed killer stored in an old bottle of rum. Not long afterward, Agatha receives an anonymous typewritten note stating that the Admiral’s death was not an accident, but murder. Now that she has been contacted by an interested party, she feels she must investigate with the help of the team at her private detective agency, Raisin Investigations.
Readers of cozy mysteries will enjoy this installment of Agatha Raisin’s adventures. It’s available in print and audiobook editions at Carlsbad Public Library. You can also watch episodes of the television series based on Agatha Raisin through the library’s free Hoopla digital app. If you need help downloading the app, just ask—the library staff will be happy to help you get started.
This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: New Agatha Raisin mystery adventure a must-read