About the Author
M. C. Beaton has won international acclaim for her bestselling Hamish Macbeth mysteries and the Agatha Raisin mystery series. She is also the author of more than one hundred romance titles and a series of romantic suspense novels, the Edwardian Mystery series. Born in Scotland, she now divides her time between Paris and the English Cotswolds.
Alison Larkin was born in Washington, DC, adopted at six weeks old by British parents, and raised in England and Africa. After graduating from Royal Holloway College, London University, and the
Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, she became a playwright and classical actress on the British stage. Then, at twenty-eight, she found her birth mother, who was living in Bald Mountain, Tennessee. The experience turned her into a stand-up comic. She was soon headlining at the Comic Strip in New York and the Comedy
Store in Los Angeles, while maintaining her theatrical career. She also spent three years under a studio development contract to star in her own sitcom with ABC,
CBS, and Jim Henson Productions. Her unusually wide range of voices can be heard in cartoons and movies, from work by James Cameron and Robert Altman to Pocahontas
and The Wonder Pets. The audiobook of The English American,
narrated by Alison, won an AudioFile Earphones Award. She has narrated over thirty audi books and lives in the Berkshires, western Massachusetts, with her husband and two children.
Read an Excerpt
Pushing Up Daisies
An Agatha Raisin Mystery
By M. C. Beaton
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 M. C. Beaton
All rights reserved.
Agatha Raisin, private detective, resident in the Cotswold village of Carsely, should have been a contented and happy woman. Business at her agency was brisk. It was a rare fine English autumn. But the serpent of jealousy was hissing in her ear. Agatha had been jealous of women before, but never in one hundred years had she expected to be jealous of her best friend, Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar's wife.
There was a newcomer in the village, Gerald Devere, a retired New Scotland Yard detective and, of all people, Mrs. Bloxby appeared smitten. She had dyed her hair a rich brown and had taken to wearing attractive clothes instead of her usual old droopy ones.
Gerald was in his early fifties. He had a slim athletic body, a clever mobile face, fine grey eyes and odd slanting black eyebrows. Agatha was determined to ensnare him. After all, she was unmarried, and Mrs. Bloxby was married to the vicar. I will only be doing her a favour, thought Agatha. She surely does not want to break up her marriage.
But Gerald had caught Agatha snooping around his house and had been furious with her. Hard work ahead, getting him to even like me, thought Agatha.
Agatha phoned her friend, Detective Sergeant Bill Wong, and said, "There's a newcomer in Carsely. Says he's a retired New Scotland Yard detective. Know anything about him?"
"Yes. He was a detective inspector with an impeccable record. He could have risen higher, but he decided to retire. Afraid of the competition?"
"Don't need to be," said Agatha. "All my work is in Mircester now. Big town stuff. No village mayhem."
It was a sunny Sunday morning. Agatha felt restless. She had thought about going to church but held back, knowing the sight of Mrs. Bloxby, all dressed up and glowing, might drive her to saying something that could end their valuable friendship.
Then she remembered that Mrs. Bloxby had asked her aid in helping the people who had allotments outside the village. Their half acres of land were under threat. The land had belonged to a trust but was now owned by Lord Bellington, who wanted to sell it to a developer for a housing estate. Allotments had started in the nineteenth century when the Victorians considered them a good way for the poor to grow their own vegetables. Gradually over the years, their popularity declined, until they suddenly became popular again but with a surprising number of members of the middle class.
Agatha switched on her computer and looked up Lord Bellington. He was a baron. And there's a name to conjure with, thought Agatha. Barons in fairy stories are always wicked. His home and estates lay outside Mircester. She decided to go and talk to him and see if she could persuade him to leave the allotments alone. Agatha fought down a little frisson of fear, remembering during her last case when she had been nearly buried alive in an allotment. But the fact that Mrs. Bloxby might have asked Gerald for help stiffened her spine. She would show him what a private detective could do.
"You are amazing, Agatha," he said over a candlelit supper. He reached forward to take her hand.
The ringing of the doorbell jerked her out of her dream. She found her friend, Sir Charles Fraith, standing on the doorstep. "I was just about to go out," said Agatha.
He followed her in. Although Charles was wearing casual clothes — open-necked blue shirt and dark blue chinos — from his barbered fair hair to his polished shoes, he looked as impeccable as ever.
"You're all made-up and dressed up," said Charles surveying her. "That's your man-hunting appearance. If it's to do with Gerald Devere, forget it. I've already told you not to stamp on Mrs. Bloxby's dreams because she is a good woman and dreams are all they are going to be."
"Well, you're wrong," said Agatha. "I am doing Mrs. Bloxby a favour. The village allotments are under threat."
"Oh, wicked Lord Bellington."
"Do you know him, Charles?"
"Met him here and there."
"I'm off to see if I can melt his heart."
"I'll come with you," said Charles. "He doesn't have a heart. He has a swinging brick."
Lord Bellington's home, Harby Hall, lay a few miles outside Mircester. It seemed to be well guarded. First, they were challenged at the entrance lodge before they were let into the drive. Further up the drive, they were flagged down by a gamekeeper who also demanded their business. "Just visiting," said Charles, the explanation he had given the lodge keeper.
They drove on until they came to the mansion. "It's actually uglier than mine," said Charles.
It was a turreted monstrosity, built by some Victorian during the craze for mediaeval architecture. The windows were small and diamond paned. The front was dominated by a large portico. They approached a massive oak door studded with brass.
Charles rang the bell. The door was opened by a young woman wearing a bikini. She had a round white face and very small black eyes. Her black hair was wet. Her brief bikini displayed rolls of white fat, and her legs were covered in black hairs.
"What do you want?" she demanded.
"We wish to speak to Lord Bellington," said Charles.
"Dad's in the pool. Does he know you?"
"Yes," said Charles.
"Okay. Follow me."
The entrance hall was very dark and lined with suits of armour. Tattered battle flags hung from the ceiling. The girl trotted in front of them, dripping water. She led the way through a door at the back of the hall, down stone steps, along a corridor and so into a large humid room with a large swimming pool.
A large hairy man, absolutely naked, was sitting in a chair by the pool, drying his feet with a towel.
"Friends of yours, Dad," said his daughter and plunged into the pool.
He had a pugnacious face and suspicious little eyes peering out below thick shaggy eyebrows. "Don't know you," he said.
"I'm Charles Fraith. Met you last year at the hunt ball."
"Oh, that's who you are. This your wife?"
"No. May I introduce Agatha Raisin?"
Now he's drying his crotch, thought Agatha. If only he would put some clothes on.
"Come upstairs and we'll have a drink." Lord Bellington heaved himself to his feet and, to Agatha's relief, shrugged himself into a large dressing gown.
They followed him back upstairs and through to a room on the ground floor. "This is my study," he said, opening a drinks cupboard. "What's your poison?"
Agatha asked for a gin and tonic and Charles, whisky and soda. The room was cluttered with hunting boots, game bags and fishing rods. A large salmon in a glass case eyed them mournfully. A stuffed fox on a side table snarled as if it wanted to leap forward and take a bite out of them. Thick ivy outside the window sent flutters of sunlight into the room.
Charles and Agatha sat side by side on a battered sofa that creaked alarmingly. Lord Bellington sat behind an ornately carved desk, took a large swig of some purplish drink and asked, "Why have you come?"
"It's about the allotments in Carsely," said Agatha. "If you build those houses, it means Carsely could lose village status and become a town. There are already two people in the village who have been trying for years to build housing estates, and now they will feel they can do it."
"Do you think I give a damn about what a lot of pesky villagers want?" he demanded.
"Do you need the money?" asked Charles.
"You should know that estates bleed money. You can tell those creeps in Carsely they haven't a hope in hell of making me change my mind."
"Who inherits if you die?" asked Agatha.
"Thinking of bumping me off? My son, Damian, inherits. Although he's such a weakling, I'm thinking of changing my will. Now, bugger off. I want my lunch."
"And that's that," said Charles. "We'll tell Mrs. Bloxby we at least tried."
"I haven't had breakfast," said Agatha. "What about stopping at some greasy spoon and getting the full English?"
But when they arrived at the vicarage, it was to find the drawing room full of people. "It is a meeting to discuss the allotments," said Mrs. Bloxby. She was wearing a pink sheath dress and black patent court shoes. Her face was made-up, and her hair had been cut in a fashionable crop, making her look younger. Gerald Devere seemed to be in charge of the meeting.
Agatha smiled at him and then said in a loud voice, "I am afraid we have bad news. We have been to see Lord Bellington, and he is not going to budge an inch."
To her fury, Gerald said, "You should have consulted us first. Someone more diplomatic might have fared better."
"I know Bellington," said Charles. "And nothing short of bumping him off is going to solve the problem."
"Well, I'm going to see him," said a tall, rangy woman. Agatha recognised her as being a Miss Bunty Daventry. "I'll talk to him manto-man. Straight from the shoulder."
"I'll come with you," said her friend. What was her name again? Agatha suddenly remembered. Josephine Merriweather, a small restless woman with a face like an outraged ferret.
"Do your best," said Agatha, "but I assure you, it's hopeless."
"Why don't we let Mr. Devere be our emissary?" suggested Mrs. Bloxby. "I mean, as an ex-Scotland Yard detective, he must be good at dealing with difficult people. Let's have a vote."
The majority voted that Gerald should go. The allotment holders were a mixture of middle-class ladies and crusty old men. One of the old men, Harry Perry, said, "I won first prize two years running with me marrow. He can't take fame like that away from me."
Agatha hated not being in control. "Listen!" she said. "I'll get in touch with the local newspapers and drum up support."
"Now that is a good idea," said Gerald and smiled at Agatha for the first time. The glow on Mrs. Bloxby's face dimmed like the shadow of a cloud passing over a field.
As the meeting started to break up, Gerald asked Charles for directions to Lord Bellington's place. Mrs. Bloxby whispered to Agatha, "Stay behind."
Oh, dear, thought Agatha. Is she going to talk about Gerald?
But when only Charles and Agatha were left, Mrs. Bloxby said, "I am very worried. Feelings are running high."
"I suppose that's understandable," said Charles. "When Bellington goes ahead with the houses, they'll lose their plots of land."
"It's not that," said the vicar's wife. "Someone has been thieving vegetables from the plots, and tempers are getting out of hand. Miss Merriweather reported the thefts to the police, and they refused to have anything to do with it, so Miss Merriweather is going around saying if she got her hands on the thief, she would kill him."
"Could be a she," said Agatha.
"In Miss Merriweather's opinion, women are beyond reproach," said Mrs. Bloxby.
The vicar, Alf Bloxby, came in. "Just going over to Winter Parva," he said. He turned to go and then swung round and surveyed his wife with a puzzled look. "Are we going anywhere special this evening because I've got evensong at Ancombe?"
"But you're all dressed up and your hair is different!"
Spare us, thought Agatha. He's just noticed.
"I felt like a change," said his wife. "Do run along. You'll be late."
When the vicar had gone, Charles said, "You do look very well these days."
"Thank you," said Mrs. Bloxby.
Charles sensed that Agatha was on the point of saying something that she certainly should not. "Come along," he said. "I'm sure Mrs. Bloxby has a lot of parish duties to attend to."
Outside Charles rounded on Agatha. "If you say one thing about her crush on Gerald, it's an end to our friendship."
"But she'll get hurt!"
"She's not a child and it is none of your business. You want him for yourself."
"Don't be silly."
"I do wish you would grow up, Aggie. Always chasing after the unattainable like some spotty teenager."
They stood glaring at each other. Then Charles laughed. "Come on. Let's have a drink and maybe stroll down to these pesky allotments."
"You shouted at me," said Agatha in a small voice.
"Trying to get through to you. Let's go to the pub. I hope this Indian summer lasts a bit longer. That is, if one can still call it an Indian summer, or must we now say, 'Native American summer'?"
"Who knows? Who cares?" muttered Agatha, who had not quite forgiven him.
But by the time they drove along to the allotments, Agatha had been restored to good humour and had decided to leave Gerald alone and not interfere in Mrs. Bloxby's life. She felt quite saintly.
The allotments were situated past the council houses outside the village. "They sell their stuff in the village shop," said Charles. "I often buy vegetables to take home."
Agatha wondered if it were possible to cook vegetables in the microwave.
Some people were working their plots, others sat outside small sheds, basking in the sun. "What a lot there is," marvelled Charles. "Pumpkins, leeks, beetroot, carrots and even still some tomatoes."
One allotment was being newly worked by an attractive female turning over the earth with a rotavator. She was wearing a gingham blouse and tight blue jeans. Her long blond hair was tied back with a gingham ribbon. She had a high cheekboned face and large grey eyes.
She saw them watching her and switched off the rotavator. "I wish I could get a gardener in to help me with this," she said. "But the fanatics around here would accuse me of cheating. Hi. I'm Peta Currie, new to the village. You're Agatha Raisin. I've seen your photo in the papers."
"I'm Charles Fraith." Charles shook her hand.
This is heavy competition, thought Agatha. "Won't your husband help you?" she asked.
"Don't have one. Free as the air." She smiled at Charles, who smiled back.
"Which is your cottage?" asked Agatha.
"That one that belonged to that murdered therapist. If you want a reasonably priced cottage in the Cotswolds, go for one that had a murdered body in it."
Agatha felt a stab of fear. She had solved the murder of therapist Jill Davent, only to be nearly murdered herself.
"Better get back to work," said Peta.
Charles and Agatha continued their walk amongst the plots of land. "I remember Mrs. Bloxby telling me they only pay three pounds a year for each half acre. The price was set in World War One. I don't know that I can be bothered finding out who is stealing vegetables," said Agatha. "I've got a lot of work at the moment. And it seems there is nothing more anyone can do about Lord Bellington, may his socks rot."
But as Agatha looked around the peaceful scene, she felt that somehow her dream of peaceful retirement in the Cotswolds had gone wrong. Perhaps she should give up the detective agency and take up gardening instead.
Charles announced he was heading home and dropped Agatha back at her cottage. She wondered how Gerald had fared with Lord Bellington. Probably wouldn't get past the lodge if he were honest about his business, she thought. Perhaps she should call on him and ask him. But she put that idea firmly out of her mind. Charles had made her feel silly.
By evening, she began to feel lonely. Her two cats, Hodge and Boswell, were playing in the garden, seemingly oblivious to her presence. What stupid names for cats. It had all been her exhusband, James Lacey's, idea.
She scrabbled in her deep freeze, looking for something to microwave. It all looked so unappetising. She decided to go to the pub for dinner.
Agatha regretted her decision as soon as she walked in the doors of the pub. For sitting at a corner table and deep in conversation were Gerald and Peta Currie. Agatha ordered fish and chips and said she would eat her meal in the garden.
Where had Peta come from, wondered Agatha? What was her background? She looked like a model. If Gerald had fallen for Peta, at least Mrs. Bloxby would be safe.
"Wasn't that our village sleuth?" asked Peta.
"Agatha Raisin. Yes," said Gerald.
"Looks quite ferocious."
"I don't like private detectives," said Gerald. "Let's talk about something else."
He was still furious after his interview with Lord Bellington. He had been curtly told to mind his own business and not poke his nose into other people's affairs. A long career of having been treated with respect had made this new brush with the real world infuriating.
He half listened to Peta prattling on about some film she had seen and suddenly wished he could discuss Lord Bellington with Agatha.
Excerpted from Pushing Up Daisies by M. C. Beaton. Copyright © 2016 M. C. Beaton. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have read the entire series and none of the other books moved as slowly for me as this one did. Agatha seemed more pathetic also. It simply did not have the same wit and flavor. Was it written by somebody else.. .
Absolutely love this series!! Looking forward to the next book
I totally enjoyed this book. Agatha Raisin is her usual man chasing , drinking, and driven self. You can't help but love her. Thank you M.C. Beaton for another great story.
Title: Pushing Up Daisies - Agatha Raisin Series Book 27 Author: M. C. Beaton Published: 9-20-2016 Publisher: St. Martin's Press/Monotaur Books Pages: 288 Genre: Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense Sub Genre: Women Sleuths; British Cozy; Private Investigator ISBN: 13: 9781250057440 ASIN: B01CCWVTYY Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley Rating: 3.75 Stars Description When Agatha Raisin left London, she began a private detective agency. Lord Bellington wants to turn the community garden into a housing estate. When Agatha and her friend Sir Charles attempt to convince Bellington to abandon his plans he scoffs: “Do you think I give a damn about those pesky villagers?” So when Agatha finds his obituary in the newspaper two weeks later, it’s no surprise that some in town are feeling celebratory. The villagers are relieved to learn that Bellington’s son and heir, Damian, has no interest in continuing his father’s development plans. But the police are definitely interested in him—as suspect number one. His father’s death, it seems, was no accident. But when Damian hires Agatha to find the real killer, she finds no shortage of suspects. A handsome retired detective named Gerald has moved to town. Too bad he was seen kissing another newcomer. When she is also murdered, Gerald is eager to help Agatha with the case. Agatha, Gerald, and her team of detectives must untangle a web of contempt in order to uncover a killer’s identity. My review: I looked forward to reading M. C. Beaton's latest Agatha Raisin book. This is a series that took a few books for me to get hooked by the setting and characters. At first I thought Agatha was an older person trying to regain her youth, a bit of a drunkard who fancied just about every male she came in contact with. Not exactly my cup of tea. around the fourth or fifth book and I found myself eagerly looking forward to each new book. The came "Pushing Up Daisies". It has a great concept for a plot and could have been terrific, but I was distracted by the typos, mixing up of characters names and connections, and the abrupt changing of scenes. This was more of a draft than a finished book. Ms. Beaton is usually so much more on top of her game. I originally received this book free from the publisher and NetGalley, but when I tried to open it to read there was a problem. My sister had just received her book in the post and let me read it first, thanks Pam. When you receive an ARC you expect these problems and expect them to be corrected in the printed version. If they were this bad in Pam's book, then the editors must have been on holiday when this book was placed on their desks. Now that the bashing is done lets discuss the good things about "Pushing Up Daisies". I once more got to visit my friends in the village of Carsely, Agatha, Charles, the vicar's wife Mrs. Boxley and all the others. The there was Gerald, a new man in the village that has caught Agatha's eye and a few of the other ladies, much to Agath's consternation. There is a fly in the ointment of the friendly village. Lord Bellinton has acquired possession of the allotment plots and plans to sell it to a development company to build housing on. Upon visiting the man to ask him to reconsider, she finds him to be a pompous overbearing elitist who doesn't care about the villagers. I disliked him immediately & was glad he was slotted to die. Add in another murder & this was a very book. My rating is 3.75 out of 5 stars.
I rated this book a reluctant 3 out of 5 stars Lord Bellington is a wealthy land developer that has the villagers of the British Cotswolts in a tizzy. Wanting to turn the community gardens into a housing estate, Agatha goes to him and tries to persuade him to abandon his plans, all to no avail. When Agatha sees his obituary in the paper two weeks later, she's not shocked to learn that the town is far from heartbroken at his passing. She's even less shocked to hear he was murdered. With a list of suspects a mile long, Agatha and her team are hired to find the killer. Could it be one of the many villagers who hated the man....or is the killer closer to home? Who do I love? Agatha Raisin! What do I want? Agatha and Charles to end up together! Ok. Ok. I know. It's a mystery series, not a romance, but hey, doesn't mean I can't hope for it. Besides, a bit of romance in a mystery book is not always a bad thing. And I just love them together. Anyway, with that said.....I am a diehard fan of this series. I have read every book so far and have no intention of stopping until the author does. Unfortunately that does not mean that I loved this latest installment....because I didn't. *sigh* I'm not sure what happened with this one but I was quite disappointed. The writing was choppy and the story kept jumping around so much that I kept losing track of what was going on. People were mentioned and then discarded. Storylines appeared and then disappeared. Backstories were created and then forgotten. There were new characters introduced that didn't get fully developed and served no real purpose and the mystery was really easy to figure out. This was not a typical Agatha Raisin book. It seemed rushed and just thrown together without thought, as if it was just put out to meet a deadline. There didn't seem to be the same level of heart in it as before. It felt as if the author didn't care. Agatha seemed tired and without fight. Mrs. Bloxby barely even made an appearance. Even Charles wasn't as entertaining and engaging as he usually is. The only reason I even gave it three stars is because it's one of my most favorite series and I always look forward to the next installment. I'm still excited for whatever comes next, but this story was a bit of a letdown.
The latest Agatha Raisin title, PUSHING UP DAISIES, by M C Beaton is a great addition to the mystery series. (I think this is #27!) Agatha Raisin mysteries are fun to read - the characters are familiar friends; there is lots of gossip; many misunderstandings and miscommunications; hasty decisions; very funny remarks; some inappropriate ‘man-chasing’ and, of course, a dead body or two. This is a fast read with a decent plot and great characters.
I have read all of the prior books in this series and have loved them. This was not the case this time. This book was disjointed and boring. It reminded me of an author who was writing to just put out a book each year. It might be time to kill off the series.
This is the 27th Agatha Raisin book, but the first I have read. I have read a lot of positive comments about this series so I wanted to give it a try. I am not sure about it. I enjoy a cozy mystery, but something about the main character, Agatha Raisin, turned me off. She seems to be an unpleasant person but there's just something about her that friends and loyal employees look beyond. She is abrupt, selfish, outspoken, and overall not a very nice person. She is also smart, witty and wants to find a man to love and who will love her back. This was one thing I did not really like about her. She is rather promiscuous and makes no bones about the fact that she is on the hunt for a man. When the local lord and landowner wants to sell the "Garden Plots" to a developer, Agatha and her friend Charles go to talk to him. He is nasty and arrogant and basically tells them "too bad, so sad". When he ends up dead a few days later, there is no end to the suspects, including his son Damien who inherits the estate. Damien hires Agatha to investigate so he will let off the hook. As she investigates, more bodies turn up, new characters are introduced and the mystery twists and turns. The characters in the book are quirky, smart and loyal to one another. The relationships are many and because I have not read the other books in the series, I was a little bewildered with some of them. Overall not a bad mystery, but you need to be prepared for the abruptness of Agatha to enjoy the story. I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Love this series!