M.C. Beaton with R.W. Green’s Down The Hatch is the 32nd book in the Agatha Raisin series. It also represents one of the first pieces of Beaton’s work published after the unfortunate passing of a part of that pseudonym. With successful radio and television shows, it is easy to see why audiences are eager for more.
While going for a power walk as exercise, Agatha finds a nice older couple looking at the body of an old man. While the initial determination is accidental death, the depiction of the way the police make this decision raises suspicions, nevermind the book’s status as a mystery novel. Soon Agatha and her partner/apprentice Toni find themselves looking into the murder and up to their necks in trouble as always. On the way they get their fair share of reminders about how disturbing small town life can be, how even the tiniest little cliques can cause harm.
One interesting development in this volume is that, even more than in previous stories featuring this detective, the police are depicted as corrupt, self-serving, borderline incompetent, and generally negative. While there are two obvious examples to the contrary in some delightful young officers named Paul and Bill, even the coroner is depicted as a gross, lecherous figure who takes rejection terribly. Thus the story falls in line with the generally darkening image of police in western nations.
There are many unusually dark aspects of this volume when it comes to the cozy mystery genre. An implied sexual assault is a severe enough issue; however, on top of this there are a number of potential complications in the relationships of not only victims and suspects, but also allies and their loved ones which make it hard not to notice the themes related to parenthood and family. Well, for the most part these would be perfectly expected in a cozy mystery, but the direction of those in relationships related to the case make it most unusual.
Volumes released after the death of the original author often change noticeably from the works published while they were alive. While Down the Hatch does not match up perfectly to the best of M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin stories, it feels like a very nice book for the series. Tamara Berry includes a number of wonderful characters in the book, and a story that grips the reader enough to look forward to the twists and turns that come. A reader should check this out if they like cozy mysteries, and eagerly await the next volume. The survival of part of the original writing team obviously helps with this, in addition to the fact that the book was published soon enough after the passing of Marion Gibbons that the writers likely could draw on full or nearly full. Whether the series will continue to maintain its quality and tone in the years to come is difficult to say, yet for now it is more than holding up.
M.C. Beaton with R.W. Green’s Down The Hatch is a very nice entry in the Agatha Raisin series. While there is not a great deal of change to the status quo, that is at least as much a boon as a hindrance for a cozy little mystery. While not an ideal starting point for the series, overall it remains enjoyable and easy to recommend. Fans of the rest of the series will love it, and it wouldn’t hurt curious onlookers to give it a try.