A perfect Cotswold spring finds irascible closet romantic Agatha Raisin in the doldrums, in need of a cuddle and a nice mystery to perk her up.
On the advice of the vicar’s wife, Agatha (The Deadly Dance, 2004, etc.) takes on Phil Witherspoon, 76, as a photographer. And she hires her secretary’s nephew Harry Beam, a bright lad on his gap year from university, to find the missing pets her detective agency has mostly dealt with lately. Although Agatha hates divorce cases and thinks Robert Smedley an obnoxious bully, the £1,000 plus expenses he offers to find his errant wife overcome her scruples. Meanwhile, she and Phil go to work on the case of a missing teenager whose body they soon find. When Smedley is poisoned in his factory office, Agatha discovers that he’d been having an affair with Joyce, his secretary. Wait, there’s more: The missing teenager had been making porn tapes for her secret fiancé, who worked for Smedley and was also carrying on with Joyce. The cases, which seem so remote from one another, naturally end up intertwined. In the end, Harry proves his worth, Phil shows a flair for detection, former employee Patrick Mulligan returns to the fold and, despite a distinct lack of warmth from the police, they manage to sort it all out.
Interesting new characters will lure franchise fans to this otherwise insipid entry.