I don't normally start a series at the eighteenth book but I wanted something linked to Christmas and there it was. It turned out that being in the middle of everything was not a problem, it may even have skipped all that "who is Agatha Raisin and how did she get here?" stuff that can make the start of a series a little slow.
The Agatha Raisin I saw was someone who has started a second career, done well and become bored, Someone who sees herself as a tough cookie who has used sheer force of personality to climb from a bad home to being a successful woman, running her own small detective agency. Someone with an instinct to kindness and fairness that she hides, even from herself, with ex post rationalisations about return on investment that maintain her tough cookie self-image.
The story revolves around a new client, a rich old widow who lives in a stately home and owns the village around it, who asks Agatha to investigate who in her household is trying to poison her. Agatha imagines a sort Poirot investigation. A lot of the humour comes from how far away the reality is from Agatha's imaginings.
What I liked most about the book was Agatha's slow realisation of her changing desires. Hiring (rescuing might be a better description) a very young but brilliant (and lucky) detective from a background similar to her own, holds up a mirror to Agatha. It allows her to see that she's become older but that that isn't a bad thing. It lets her review her strengths and her achievements and puts her in a position to think about what she really wants.
At the beginning of the book, what she really wants is to have the perfect Christmas meal, in her cottage, with all her friends and to end up under the mistletoe in the arms of her ex-husband. By the end of the book, what she wants has changed as she slowly acknowledges who she is and how much she likes being who she is.
This was a light read with a funny and clever plot and engaging characters. A good book to settle down with before Christmas (or to bring Christmas back when you feel the need for it.