Number of pages: 192
The fourth book in the Agatha Raisin series opens with ramblers finding themselves blocked from walking across private property by a rich landowner. This seems to be a common occurrence in the British countryside, but it turns out that the landowner is really polite about it. This doesn't seem to do anything to reduce tension between members of the group, and eventually one of them is found murdered after setting out for a walk on her own.
It seems that there are a lot of people who wanted her dead, just because she had a habit of rubbing people up the wrong way. Agatha Raisin and her on-off lover James end up pretending to be married and joining the rambling group to find out who did it.
This seemed to be the shortest book in the series so far, and unfortunately I found it to be the worst of the titles so far. First off, the behaviour of some of the characters seems almost unreal.
Shortly before the victim is killed, she is thrown out of the houses of three people whom she is staying in, mostly for reasons that seem really petty, and some of the dialogue when the characters start arguing with each other almost seemed childish. For example, one of them is an IRA sympathiser and takes issue with a comment she makes (this was written in 1994, so the IRA was at least topical at the time), another throws her out of his house for not wanting to have sex with him. Incidentally, it did seem that most of the characters in the book were completely fixated with their own sex lives.
It didn't feel like Agatha got a lot to do in the book; the early chapters were mostly about the build up to the murder, and she was given a mini-story that felt tacked-on, and which went nowhere. For the rest of the book, she didn't seem to get much more to do than question suspects.
The book did at least throw in a surprise with the killer's identity, but it just felt really rushed, so that the end of the book could be used to set up the next book in the series.
Having seen the Sky One series, and knowing what the next book in the series is, I had guessed what was going to happen at the end of the book, so spoiler ahead...
[Spoiler for this book and probably the next]
The next book is Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage, so I wasn't surprised when James proposed to Agatha at the end of the story. At the end of book four in the series, this seemed a bit too soon for the series to go in this direction; when they adapted it on TV, they did at least leave that plot for the eighth (and final) episode (the proposal was added into a different story, because this one aired first in the series and was padded out a lot).
The TV adaptation of the next book in the series ended up with Agatha and James not marrying, after her estranged husband, Jimmy showed up, only to get murdered, but I will have to read the book to find out if it ended in the same way. In this book, it appears that Agatha's assistant Roy is plotting to let Jimmy know about the impending marriage, because he is angry at her, something which was also dropped in the TV series (he had a bigger role, and didn't seem to hate her at all).
I am planning to read more of the books in the series, but this one was quite underwhelming for me; I'm hoping the later ones in the series are better than this.
Next book: A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess)