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As The Pig Turns (Agatha Raisin) by M.C. Beaton
Cover Artist: Griesbach / Martucci
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312387020
Date: 11 October 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

The brash PI Agatha Raisin is being bullied by an overweight police officer, Gary Beech; he keeps ticketing her for minor infractions. While attending the pig roast at Winter Parva, she discovers that the pig on the rotating spit is actually the corpse of a naked man whose feet, arms and head have been chopped off. Agatha learns that the dead man is Gary Beech; his ex-wife, Amy Richards, hires Agatha to locate his killer. Unfortunately, Amy is found stabbed to death in the parking lot of Tesco's supermarket. When a vicious serial killer begins targeting her employees and friends, Agatha's life becomes a nightmarish soap opera--a soap opera that should be titled As the Pig Turns.

I must presume, after reading my first Agatha Raisin mystery, that this best-selling series is M.C. Beaton's dark-humored homage to Agatha Christie. With her multiple vices of drinking, smoking, and man chasing, Agatha appears to be an ultramodern, out-of-control version of Miss Marple. Agatha is a boisterous, meddlesome, unorthodox divorcée who has solved many crimes throughout the cozy British village of Carsely in the Cotswolds. Detective Parry Hyler of the Las Vegas Police Department summed her up best when he referred to her as a "ball-breaking old trout". When angry, she likes to shout, "Snakes and bastards!" I laughed out loud throughout this fast-paced novel that was surprising violent, action packed and gory for a cozy mystery.

There are innumerable characters constantly flitting in and out of the complex, soap opera-like plot for As the Pig Turns. Character development was sparse. Honestly, sometimes I did get the players, mostly the men, confused. Agatha Raisin is surrounded by quite a few male employees and potential suitors. (Even Agatha's ex-husband, James Lacey, a war veteran, conveniently lives next door to her; he sometimes accompanies her on one of her unlawful breaking-and-entering escapades.) Though I believe As the Pig Turns can be read as a standalone, it would best be enjoyed by readers who are more familiar with the characters--readers who have been steadfast, loyal fans. I hope to become one such fan.

The book, especially near the beginning, contained numerous typos, which annoyed and distracted me; readers may complain that the typos hindered their suspension of disbelief. This should not be a reflection on the author who created a very unique storyline--a type of cozy/crime drama. It has plenty of stabbings, kidnappings, and cases of mistaken identity. As the Pig Turns is perfect for someone, like me, who enjoys cozies that are hilarious but have enough violence and intrigue to maintain a fast pacing. There is also romance. PI Toni Gilmour is a young Agatha Raisin in training who is being pursued by two men: the much older, possessive Paul Finley and a former coworker, the spoiled, unfocused Simon Black. Agatha, meanwhile, schemes to seduce a handsome gardener, George Marston, who has just moved into her neighborhood.

M.C. Beaton's legion of fans will most definitely enjoy her latest Agatha Raisin mystery, As the Pig Turns. Newcomers to the series, such as myself, will be pleasantly surprised by this unique cozy; however, I recommend that they write a list of the numerous characters in order to prevent confusion. Fans of Agatha Raisin will also want to read Parnell Hall's Puzzle Lady series featuring Cora Felton--the latest installment being The KenKen Killings.

Agatha and Cora are so similar that it is frightening. Stars of two highly celebrated cozy series, both man-crazy, irreverent divorcées make me laugh with their detective shenanigans. Since Agatha Raisin is the lead character for twenty-two novels and Cora Felton for only twelve, I would venture to speculate that Cora Felton is America's response to Agatha Raisin.

Our Readers Respond

From: Pat Browning
Thanks for the rollicking review of the latest rollicking Agatha Raisin in AS THE PIG TURNS. (Yuk.) I'm a die-hard Agatha Raisin fan and will look this one up.

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