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Hiss and Hers: An Agatha Raisin Mystery by M.C. Beaton
Cover Artist: Griesbach / Martucci
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312616250
Date: 18 September 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Agatha Raisin is smitten by the hunky gardener, George Marston, who has been tending a lot of ladies' gardens in the tiny Cotswold village of Carsely. When he's late for a charity ball, Agatha runs to his home and finds his dead body buried in a compost heap. A bag containing three snakes was tied around his head. The suspects are many because George was a serial philanderer. The corpses pile up like cordwood as Agatha and the staff at her detective agency investigate George's gruesome murder.

Always drinking, always smoking, always shouting, "Snakes and bastards," Agatha Raisin's whacky misadventures in sleuthing continue in M.C. Beaton's hilarious Hiss and Hers. This time around, Agatha's sleuthing takes her into the world of primetime soap operas as she investigates one of her celebrity neighbors, actress Jessica Fordyce. Her flaky, young employee, Simon Black, is smitten by the gorgeous actress. Simon's annoyed coworker, Toni Gilmour, must keep an eye on him, fearing he's endangering himself. Agatha, meanwhile, is still searching for a man to love her. Jimmy Jessop, her ex-fiancée, invites her for a weekend at his home in Wyckhadden.

Not only is Hiss and Hers chockfull of romance (mostly of the unrequited, one-sided kind), but it is also packed with humor. I laughed out loud several times. The funniest line came from Sir Charles Fraith when Agatha and Charles were discussing George's attraction to homely women:

“He didn't have taste," said Charles brutally. "He would have screwed the cat."
Beaton's Agatha Raisin novels provide me with a pleasant respite from the more violent, more gruesome crime dramas that I usually read. Plus, they are fast-paced because they don't dwell too much on boring, extraneous details. A busy person like myself can make a few hours for relaxing and reading one of Beaton's novels. In fact, I've recently convinced my girlfriend to read the entire soap opera-like series with me beginning with the first novel, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, which I ordered from Amazon.

The setting is primarily the serene, pastoral village of Carsely. It reminds me of Cabot Cove, Maine, where Jessica Fletcher of the Murder, She Wrote television series does her sleuthing. However, Agatha drinks more, smokes more and curses more than Jessica. Nevertheless, Agatha is a woman after my own heart. Recently, I learned she has to drive a small car because she can't parallel park; neither can I. We also share the same fear of growing old alone. I think many readers can relate to Agatha Raisin and that is probably why she has garnered so many fans over the past two decades.

One thing Agatha and I don't share is a fear of snakes. I've had several for pets. However, they were of the harmless king snake varieties. I don't really care for the poisonous ones myself. Horror films with snakes (e.g., Venom, Frogs, Rattlers, and Sssssss) have always intrigued me and, therefore, I was excited to read Hiss and Hers, which abounds with them. Those with snake phobias will most likely experience shivers when they read it. Fans of Agatha Raisin will definitely want to read the latest installment in this popular, offbeat cozy series.

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