Beaton, author of the often crisp and stylish Hamish MacBeth stories, seems to lose her cool whenever she turns to the exploits of the abrasive sleuth Agatha Raisin (Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley, 1995, etc.). This fifth in the series finds Agatha, onetime London p.r. hotshot, on the verge of marriage to James Lacey, a reticent ex-army officer who lives next door to her in the Cotswold village of Carsely. Agatha has sold her house to the unfriendly Mr. Hardy and, typically, refuses to face the fact that Jimmy Raisin, her long-unheard-from sot of a husband, may not be dead. Jimmy, however, alerted by Agatha's friendly enemy Roy Silver, turns up just in time to abort the wedding and worse, is later found strangled in a local ditch. The police, including Agatha's pal Bill Wong, don't move fast enough for our heroine, who teams up with Lacey to investigate Jimmy's blackmailing past, centered on a ritzy health spa and a long defunct charity headed by Mrs. Gore-Appleton. Their nervy, adolescent forays--lies, disguises, breakins--leave a string of fatalities in their wake, until Agatha faces the enemy closer to home, and with some help from the despised police, manages to survive, and to triumph. Careless, arbitrary plotting and much tiresome exploration of the emotional turmoil suffered by tough-as-nails Agatha. Strictly for adoring fans.