The Witches' Tree: An Agatha Raisin Mystery by M.C. Beaton (Amazon)
Rating: Very Good
Description: Cotswolds inhabitants are used to inclement weather, but the night sky is especially foggy as Rory and Molly Devere, the new vicar and his wife, drive slowly home from a dinner party in their village of Sumpton Harcourt. They strain to see the road ahead―and then suddenly brake, screeching to a halt. Right in front of them, aglow in the headlights, a body hangs from a gnarled tree at the edge of town. Margaret Darby, an elderly spinster, has been murdered―and the villagers are bewildered as to who would commit such a crime.
Agatha Raisin rises to the occasion (a little glad for the excitement, to tell the truth, after a long run of lost cats and divorces on the books). But Sumpton Harcourt is a small and private village, she finds―a place that poses more questions than answers. And when two more murders follow the first, Agatha begins to fear for her reputation―and even her life. That the village has its own coven of witches certainly doesn't make her feel any better...
Genre: Mystery - Cozy
Why I Picked This Book: I love Agatha Raisin. She drives me crazy sometimes but I can't help but love her and the mysteries are always entertaining too.
My Impression: If I was making a list of series that I really enjoy but sadly neglect Agatha Raisin would be high on my list. This is a series that I'd love to go back and start at the beginning. The mystery is good and Agatha herself is flawed, at times annoying, but always herself and I can't help really liking her. I loved how she was brought into the mystery in this one. There's quite a lot of curiosity, a little bit of deception and a surplus of vicar's wives.
This book starts out with a mention of Agatha Christie which is always a good sign and the mystery didn't let me down. Just who was Margaret Darby and how did she get herself in the Witches' Tree? Agatha gets involved in what seems like a fairly tame but bizarre village mystery which quickly turns sideways when the body count starts rising and the threats start appearing. The mystery starts with a humorous note (never base a dinner party on a dinner party held in a Miss Marple mystery) and quickly turns intriguing. I was immediately pulled in and flew through this one all the way to the end.
Agatha Raisin has a LOT of back story - 27 books worth at this point. However, I've never had a problem jumping in at random places in the series and this book proved no different. While I don't know all of the history between Agatha and Charles or Agatha and many of the other characters I had no problem getting the general idea very quickly. Beaton makes Agatha so real that I don't feel like I need to know all the ins and outs to understand her as a character.
If you enjoy a solid mystery with a character you love but sometimes want to reach into the book and give a Gibbs-style head slap this is a mystery for you. This mystery is quirky, page turning, and lots of fun!
Would I Read More of this Series/Author? Absolutely! I'd love to do a big binge read but until that happens I'll settle for reading a book in the series here and there.
Would I Recommend this Book? If you enjoy a mystery you really must try this series.