M.C. Beaton, whose true name is Marion (McChesney) Gibbons, has delighted readers for nearly 40 years with her mystery novels featuring Scottish policeman Hamish MacBeth and Cotswolds detective Agatha Raisin. She’s also penned a couple of dozen romance novels under various names and several additional books as well. Now 82, she recently released The Dead Ringer, 29th in the Agatha Raisin series.
Thirk Magna is one of those idyllic Cotswolds villages that delight millions of tourists every year. Its centerpiece is the medieval church of St. Ethelred and its bells, which are the pride and glory of the whole community.
Bell-ringers across the land diligently practice their craft and the bell-ringers of Thirk Magna are no different. Currently they are diligently working on a special selection for the visit of Bishop Peter Salver-Hinkley.
Bishop Salver-Hinkley is too good looking for his own good and the ladies of the parish are in an absolute tizzy over his upcoming visit. After all, he’s also rich and unmarried.
But his visit turns out to be a disaster. It seems that the bishop had once been engaged, but his fiancee Jennifer Toynby, a local heiress, disappeared without a trace. Her body has yet to be found. Agatha Raisin, owner of a detective agency, convinces Julian Brody, a local lawyer, to hire her to solve the mystery.
But before Agatha can really get down to business, fresh bodies begin to pile up in Thirk Magna at an alarming rate. First to die is Larry Jensen, a local policeman and one of the bell-ringers, whose rotting corpse is found in the crypt of St. Ethelred.
Next Millicent Dupin, one of a pair of identical twin bell-ringers, is murdered near the church. Before the community recovers from the second murder, a third victim, Terry Fletcher, a journalist and, for a short time, Agatha’s lover, is found dead in Agatha’s sitting room.
As the days pass, more and more evidence points to the bishop as the killer. But is he?
Stokely Memorial Library now has The Dead Ringer, along with Beaton’s other works. All are well-crafted and highly entertaining, perfect reading for these bitterly cold days and nights.
Located at 383 East Broadway, Stokely Memorial Library is open Mondays—Saturdays from 10-5 and may be reached at 423-623-3832.