Solving crimes: LA vs. The Cotwolds

The Watchman by Robert CraisSo after the long haul through Stephenson’s ‘The System of the World’ I wanted some quick and rewarding reading and having recently picked up the latest Robert Crais, ‘The Watchman’ I decided reading two of my favourite authors simultaneously was a treat not to be missed.

The Watchman concentrates on the second, almost literally ‘silent’ partner of Crais’ detective duo, Joe Pike. He of very few words, a smile which never extends beyond a twitch to the corner of the mouth, aviator sunglasses even at night and those forward facing red arrows tattooed on his deltoids. That Joe Pike.

Other than making Pike the focus, instead of wise-cracking Elvis Cole, this is a traditional Crais book. This one is mostly about protecting a witness from mobsters trying to kill her. Pike is as laconic as ever, although having deliberately pushed Pike to the forefront Crais explores a little more of his character and his history, as well as softening him a little in allowing him a friendship with the young woman he is protecting. There is action and tension from page one, Cole is as funny as Pike is ruthless, and as ever they are both deadly to those opposing them or threatening the innocent.

The only problem with Crais’ books are that they are far too easy to read and this one was no exception, I consumed it in two days. A shift in style without changing genres seemed like an interesting move. For a while my partner has been reading a series of crime books set not just in the Cotswolds but in a fictiional Cotswold village a few minutes drive from our home.

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton‘Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death’ by M.C. Beaton (a resident of nearby Blockley) is a light-hearted crime story in the tradition of Miss Marple.

Beaton updates Christie’s slightly stilted period style whilst retaining the village stereotypes and adding her own nice observations of the locality, its residents and the tourists who visit us in our golden hued villages.

Initially her lead, the titular Agatha Raisin, a successful Marketing company entrepreneur, selling up and taking early retirement to the idealised Cotswolds she remembers from a childhood visit, is anything but likeable.

Having established her in her new home Beaton sets up a series of village encounters designed to demonstrate how out of place she is, culminating in her attempt to ingratiate herself with the village by entering a London bought quiche into the village baking competition.

This is a very easy read, made all the more enjoyable as our village and many we know well are mentioned frequently, the whole thing is faintly ridiculous, but then so are the plots of many murder mysteries.

I shot through this in a day-and-a-half and there are a good number in the series, so I hope they remain fun and diverting.


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