“Who around here is a pathetic amateur?”
Hot to Trot is the 31st Agatha Raisin mystery in this very popular series. A few years ago, I read several Agatha Raisin books and abruptly stopped. Watching the amusing TV series caused me to return to the books, so here I am with book 31. Hot to Trot is published posthumously and there’s an intro from author Rod Greene who explains how he stepped in and took over writing the novel when M.C. Beaton was in her final illness. For those who don’t know, this cozy series features Agatha Raisin, a successful London PR woman who retires to the Cotswolds only to discover that the quaint village is a hot bed of gossip, intrigue and murder. After poking her nose into several cases, Agatha forms her own detective agency
Hot to Trot, a light, diverting read opens with Agatha miffed that former lover, series character, Sir Charles is about to marry Mary Darlinda Brown-Field, the bossy, unattractive daughter of indulgent, wealthy parents. While Agatha in no longer romantically involved with Charles, she can’t help being slightly disgruntled that Mary is 30 years her junior. Age and attractiveness (Agatha’s of course) are themes that run throughout this entertaining, amusing novel.
Agatha is aware of Sir Charles’s financial situation and his wondering eye and so guesses, correctly, that the marriage is a business deal rather than a love match. While she understands that Sir Charles’s finances will improve with marriage to Mary, she wonders just what Mary will get from the deal. Agatha, ever dauntless and nosy, gatecrashes the tacky wedding ceremony with former husband (and current neighbour) James in tow. A very public alteration witnessed by several people takes place at Agatha’s home between Agatha, who is forced to defend herself, and the very nasty, aggressive Mary. Soon after this event, Agatha and Toni gatecrash a fancy dress ball that takes place at Sir Charles’s estate. Another fight takes place between Mary and Agatha, and shortly afterwards Mary, dressed in her full riding gear is found strung up in the stables. It’s a clumsy attempt to cover up the murder as suicide.
It seems that Mary had no shortage of enemies, but with a large inheritance at stake and snarky Chief Inspector Wilkes in charge of the investigation, both Agatha and Sir Charles find themselves prime suspects. Agatha decides to investigate and soon she is up to her neck in the competitive world of show jumping–an insular world in which some people will do whatever it takes to win.
As in a great deal of cozy crime novels of this type, there is little to no character development per se: instead much loved, flawed characters appear, drop off the pages, and then reappear. The fun is in the characters being themselves, and in Agatha’s case –we see and love her many flaws. Also on board is Roy Silver, who suddenly finds he’s interested in horse riding, and James, who seems a bit too stuffy for Agatha
This audiobook is superbly read by Penelope Keith, and her rich voice creates an almost perfect narration. There’s one section with Agatha in France and the accents (French people speaking English) are obviously false and this reiterates my argument that authors should think twice before including accented speech in books.