Many of you already know that I read mysteries for two purposes: 1) I enjoy them. 2) I study them to help me write my own. For that reason, while these entries often have some aspects of a book review, I usually veer off at some point and talk about writing.
This book is a later addition to a series of which I have only read the first two books. I picked it up because it was the book of the month for a new book club I started attending--the Thursday Thrillers at the Barnes and Noble--which meets at the Niagara Fall Blvd location in Amherst on the second Thursday of every month. I very much enjoyed my first visit, and hope to learn much by what other mystery readers have to say about the books they read.
Agatha Raisin has changed a bit since the first two installments. Apparently the glimmer of romance that sparked my interest in the first two panned out, at least a little, because the 'dashing neighbor' I knew is now her ex-husband. Oh,well. Such is life, I guess. And Agatha has advanced from being an amateur to a pro. Detective, that is. She's now a private investigator.
Hopping into this one after not reading the middle installments was a bit rough. There are regular people in here that I do not know, and some story lines have advanced to the point that they were a bit tough to figure out. Not a fault of the book--just of the way I approached it. But I like when strands of the protag's personal life intermingle with the latest mystery. I think that is what keeps a series alive. The case is solved, but you wonder what is going to happen next to Agatha.
What Beaton does masterfully though, is create a heroine with interesting flaws--enough to get her into trouble and keep her in trouble through a whole series. Far from a Mary-Sue, Agatha is self-deceived, insecure, and downright selfish sometimes. Readers take turns liking her, pitying her, and hating her. But whatever they do, they are emotionally engaged with her character--so there is the master stroke.
But how can you bottle that? And how can I apply it to my fledgling character?
Here's where I feel my hands are a bit tied. My character is a preacher's wife. And while I have struggled with making her imperfect and have tried to give her some qualities that will get her in trouble, there are some who want to push her into a stereotype. They get very uncomfortable when she says and does things that they do not expect a pastor's wife to do. I tell them that is the point. If she always acted and reacted in the ways an ideal pastor's wife should, she wouldn't get into much trouble, would she? And she wouldn't be a realistic character either. Still, it has given me a very narrow playing field, and something to think about when developing future characters.