Dishing the Dirt (Agatha Raisin)
by M.C. Beaton
Cover Artist: Tierney and Wood
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250057433
Date: 28 June 2016 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Rumors of Agatha Raisin's impoverished childhood are circulating through the British Coltswold village of Carsely. Agatha confronts the source of these rumors, a beautiful therapist, Jill Davent, and threatens to kill her. When Jill is found dead, the entire village suspects Agatha of murdering her. Soon everyone involved in the case begins dying mysteriously. After several failed attempts on Agatha's life, it becomes obvious that she is the target of a vicious psychopath who doesn't approve of anyone dishing the dirt.
[Editor's Note: This review originally appeared in our November 2015 issue.]
Dishing the Dirt is one of the most violent, most hilarious of M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin novels. I lost track of the body count. The novel's killer is one of the most malicious I've ever encountered. Someone in bucolic Carsely has a terrible secret and will kill anyone to keep it from being revealed. Agatha's addiction to men is worse than ever; it doesn't matter how old or young he is. Her friend, Sir Charles Fraith, summed it up best when he described her as "a walking obsession constantly searching for a host." This addiction leads to many hilarious hijinks.
All of Agatha's friends pop in and out of her life to assist her in solving the murder spree. Some of them, such as Roy Silver, are craving the media publicity that follows Agatha like fleas on a dog. Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar's neglected wife, and Doris Simpson, Agatha's cleaning woman, have roles that are more significant than usual. Both of them are sources of invaluable gossip that helps Agatha. For example, they supply her with names of Jill Davent's clients. Gossip (and the harm that it brings upon a close-knit community) seems to be the novel's major theme. In all honesty, listening to gossip can help solve a crime. Agatha Christie's famous Hercule Poirot often interviewed the victim's neighbors in a casual setting, catching them off guard, and listened intently to the gossip they told him.
The novel's plot is very complex. The characters are many. I must say, there is never a dull moment when I'm reading an Agatha Raisin novel from Britain's Queen of Mystery, M.C. Beaton. They are always fast paced. Dishing the Dirt involves a murder that occurred years ago and a psychopath who will kill anyone in order to keep it a secret. No case has ever upset Agatha as much as this one; she comes very close to experiencing a mental breakdown, and losing her life. Some of the murders are quite creative.
Dishing the Dirt, much like the other installments in this unique series, is not your typical cozy. Perhaps that is why I read the Agatha Raisin novels and am constantly looking forward to the next one.