Hot to Trot: An Agatha Raisin Mystery (Agatha Raisin Mysteries, 31)
“Viewed as a ‘debut novel’ by R. W. Green, Hot to Trot is a fine first showing. Red herrings and plot twists and ridiculous moments of embarrassment abound, and the most important characters survive to rise again. Viewed as a continuation of M. C. Beaton’s oeuvre, results are a bit more iffy.”
Beloved author M. C. Beaton (née Marion Chesney) died in 2019, but not before testing “R. W. Green” as her potential fill-in. According to Green’s Foreword to Hot to Trot, Beaton asked for a “first sample chapter” for the book she had in mind, and found only one or two changes to make in the version Green wrote. Green continued, “I thoroughly enjoyed working with Marion and I am honoured that she trusted me to meddle with her characters. I will miss her more than I can say.”
Reader, be warned: Green does not duplicate Beaton’s writing style in the long run, although many of the plot points of Hot to Trot were clearly discussed before the original author’s passing. One, for example, was a road to riches for protagonist Agatha Beaton’s ex, Sir Charles Fraith. Clearly, the two writing collaborators also shared a sense of what was humorous about Agatha, and both adored her as a character.
That said, this book will not please all series fans, since both the tone of narrative voice and the particular shadings of the characters are definitely different. On the other hand, for those not yet attached to the series, or who just enjoy humorous crime fiction without strings to the “original,” this is a lively and entertaining read, with a few strands of puerile British humor like repeating the phrase “rumpy-pumpy” (apparently slang for jovially “getting laid”). Which actually, come to think of it, is perfectly fitting for a British romp through the country lanes of mystery.
The main point is that Sir Charles, still an object of Agatha’s exasperated affection, has made a terrible mistake in committing to marry a power-hungry fortune chaser with legal clout: Miss Mary Brown-Fields. In spite of crashing the wedding, Agatha fails to halt the proceedings, and discovers that she truly hates “Lady Mary Fraith.”
Her friend Mrs. Bloxby comments over sherry, “So the battle lines are drawn. It is always very awkward trying to involve oneself in whatever goes on between a husband and wife.” Agatha’s response is, “Not for a private detective. It’s pretty much my professional stock in trade.”
Despite the humiliating arrest that follows, Agatha’s soon able to discover blackmail in progress, and begins a series of costume and persona shifts that dazzles the reader and reveals the crime underway. But the path to resolution is paved with further humiliations, mistakes, and even betrayals, all packed into a village mystery that shifts back and forth between comedy and tenderness.
Viewed as a “debut novel” by R. W. Green, Hot to Trot is a fine first showing. Red herrings and plot twists and ridiculous moments of embarrassment abound, and the most important characters survive to rise again. Viewed as a continuation of M. C. Beaton’s oeuvre, results are a bit more iffy. But as Agatha says at one point, “You could try to be a bit nicer to me. We are still on the same side, after all.”