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Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet    by M. C. Beaton order for
Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet
by M. C. Beaton
Order:  USA  Can
Ivy, 1994

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Agatha Raisin retired relatively young (she is fiftyish) from the cut-throat field of public relations. A streetwise survivor from an impoverished background, Agatha thinks she wants a genteel and peaceful retirement. Thus she finds herself in the sleepy village of Carsley in the English Cotswolds and throws herself into village life. The energy and ambition that made her successful and well-to-do also make it difficult for her to relax; additionally, Agatha is a bit lonely. As a result, she turns her attention to ensnaring the very attractive retired colonel who lives next door.

However, James Lacey is a wily bird, a confirmed bachelor who panics at Agatha's less-than-subtle methods. She transfers her efforts to the handsome new veterinarian, who seems to be more susceptible to the blandishments of the village women. When Paul Bladen is found dead in rather bizarre circumstances (poisoned by the drug he was to administer to a horse), Agatha begins investigating, partly out of boredom and partly because Lacey joins her in detection, giving her a chance to enjoy his company. (Ostensibly writing his memoirs, he is wrestling with writer's block and glad of an excuse to escape.) Agatha finds no shortage of suspects, as behind the good-looking facade Bladen proves to be a nasty piece of work indeed.

Anyone familiar with Beaton's series featuring amiable constable Hamish Macbeth will expect offbeat humour and more than competent handling of character and plot. The author does not disappoint, offering a lively and entertaining tale. While she has a discerning eye for human foibles, Beaton is never cruel. Agatha Raisin has many frailties, but she is also a true friend with a generous heart. The ending is hiliarious: Agatha and her rival Freda Huntington form a tipsy alliance against men in general and James Lacey in particular. And of course, Agatha does track down the murderer.

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