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Kissing Christmas Goodbye: An Agatha Raisin Mystery    by M. C. Beaton order for
Kissing Christmas Goodbye
by M. C. Beaton
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2007 (2007)

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* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

After sixteen previous appearances in M. C. Beaton's several dozen novels, the formidable Agatha Raisin is once again involved in a cozy little mystery with more than a few crooks and nannies complicating her otherwise already interesting life.

Agatha, the sometimes confrontational chain-smoking reader of Golden Age mysteries, owns and operates her own detective agency in Mircester, England. She has a small staff of eccentric assistants, and she has recently been joined by a precocious seventeen-year old young woman who shows considerable promise as an investigator.

When not dispatching her investigators to find missing dogs and cats, which seems to be a boring though financially necessary sideline for her agency, Agatha and her colleagues spend a good deal of time investigating wayward husbands and wives. In October, though, a remarkable change of pace is about to impose itself upon the Agatha Raisin Detective Agency - just when the motherly divorcee was spending much of her spare time planning her upcoming Christmas celebrations.

Sometimes called unpleasant names (bitch, old whore, and terrifying) by some rather biased souls who would not call themselves her friends, Agatha has received a singularly intriguing letter from Phyllis Tamworthy, a wealthy woman who is absolutely certain that someone in her family is going to kill her. So, despite her misgivings about the validity of Mrs. Tamworthy's concerns, Agatha - supported by her friend Sir Charles Fraith - travels to Mrs. Tamworthy's manor home, where she meets the seemingly paranoid woman and the rest of the Tamworthy family.

In very short order, of course, Mrs. Tamworthy drops dead. The family physician says that the old woman died of a heart attack. However, Agatha wonders if something else might have happened. There is, after all, Mrs. Tamworthy's letter. There are also the members of the dead woman's suspicious family. And, more particularly, there is evidence that points to murder!

Well, quicker than you can put together the clues and say, Colonel Mustard did it in the library with the candlestick, the evidence begins accumulating, and Agatha is fully involved in another of author M. C. Beaton's pleasant little mysteries. Full of surprises and including several months worth of red herrings and dead-ends, Kissing Christmas Goodbye races along (over a three month period) to Christmas and an entertaining conclusion in which Agatha Raisin proves once again that she is, with 'a sharp eye and the luck of the Devil,' one of the most charming detectives appearing in contemporary cozy mysteries.

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