Book Review: The Witches’ Tree by M.C. Beaton

If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you’ll probably know what a massive fan I am of cozy mysteries. Even if they are repetitive and similar, I love them all. Until I read this one…

A little background on this series. This is Book #28 of the Agatha Raisin mystery series, and one I’ve been planning to read for years. I was browsing through the library this month in search for some Halloween books when I spotted this one on audiobook. I thought it might be nice to take a break from all the horror movies, TV shows, and books I’ve been reading to read a cozy mystery. Usually, it’s a safe bet for me. But not this time.

Release: Oct. 5, 2017

Synopsis: When elderly spinster Margaret Darby is found hanging from a gnarled tree outside Cotswold, England, known as “The Witches’ Tree,” Agatha Raisin is brought in to investigate. But when two more murders follow and Agatha’s own life is threatened, she realizes the weird local coven of witches may be the least of her worries.

Review (mostly non-spoiler):

The one thing I cannot fault this book about was the mystery itself. It is expertly crafted with plenty of red herrings, constantly rising conflict, and plenty of murder most foul. Although this is the first book I’ve read in this series, so I had no idea who the reoccurring characters were, I never felt at a loss for who was who. Unfortunately, this book has one fatal weakness: Agatha Raisin herself.

Usually, I am rather forgiving with cozy mysteries. It’s my trashy romance pill; I can’t get enough and I know they all contain pretty much the same tropes just recycled over and over again. I don’t think I’ve ever read a cozy mystery I did not enjoy, until this one. I can forgive predictable plot. I can forgive unlikeable background characters. And I can forgive unnecessary scenes. But I cannot forgive Agatha Raisin.

Where do I start with how much of a horrible person she is? She had no self-control, she is incredibly unhappy which makes her constantly lash out at well-meaning friends, she is manipulative, and she is one of the more egocentric protagonists I have ever read. She is such a contradiction that it made no sense to me that she could solve even the disappearance of her oven mitt, much less the deaths of multiple people. She even says at one point that part of the information they learn and she forgets but Sir Charles remembers (at least I think it’s Sir Charles, because she had at least three love interests in this book), and she says, “Not worth remembering.” Really? How is this woman a successful private detective?

She has no self-control with eating jam donuts, which feels stereotypic when it comes to woman. She is going through a mid-life crisis at fifty, as if the author is forcing her to appear more relatable by giving her “typical” traits. When she’s talking to one character, Molly, who had to endure a horrible rape but doesn’t want to talk about it, her internal response is something like, “Don’t tell me about your rape, I don’t sodding care.” What an absolute bitch! It is rare I call any character names like this, but Agatha seems to deserve it. When she’s knocked out and found naked, all she’s worried about is people seeing her imperfect figure.

She is shallow, she objectifies men, and yet she still has this unrealistic, ideal view of a possible husband. She is cruel when talking to many of the characters, thinks only of herself, and any “relatable” traits feel unreal and forced.

All right, rant over.

I’ve been meaning to read this series for years, so you can imagine how disappointed I was by it being destroyed by the unlikeable protagonist. In every good mystery series, the one constant factor is the detective. And if you can’t stand the detective, no matter how good the mystery is you will not enjoy the series. This was the case for me with this book.

I think I’m sticking with horror for the rest of this month.

The one good thing I will mention about the audiobook is the reader. Alison Larkin does an exceptional job with the voices and accents. Usually, I don’t listen to a lot of audiobooks, but this one I was impressed by. Not the story, just the audiobook itself.

Have you heard of this series? Or maybe seen the new BBC adaptation of it (I watched one episode and, while Agatha is much better in the show, she’s still rather annoying)? Do you need to relate to the protagonist in a mystery series or is the mystery itself more important to you? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Witches’ Tree by M.C. Beaton

  1. I think “Agatha Raisin and The Witch of Wyckhadden” is great but you’ve already seen the TV version (they did produce the better stories) so I’d suggest some of her more ‘unsavoury’ stories around 2011 to 2015 “The Blood of an Englishman” “Hiss and Hers” or “As the Pig Turns” but I can’t guarantee that you will like them any better 😉 Agatha’s relationship with Sir Charles Fraith is pathetic to say the least!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Shame you read that particular book because I’ve read, listened and watched many of Agatha Raisin’s stories (in between hardcore crime from Stuart MacBride) and felt this one was the worst! My belief is that Agatha is based on M C Beaton herself 😉 Surprisingly I think Agatha is a better character than her cop series Hamish MacBeth who bores me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe I will give other books in the series a chance, then, especially if this book just happens to be a particularly bad one. I think a lot of authors base their protagonists on themselves, and if they do it well, I don’t mind. I haven’t read her Hamish MacBeth series, though. Is there a particular book in the Agatha Raisin series that you enjoyed the most that I should read so I can give the series a fair assessment?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, I watched a couple episodes. Like I said, it’s more tolerable because you don’t see internal monologue in Agatha’s head, but she’s still slightly annoying. Though I did really enjoy the episode “Agatha Raisin and The Witch of Wyckhadden.”


  3. I don’t mean to offend, but I have to say it’s adorable of you to complain about the unlikeable protagonist. And this post puts a smile on my face.😆😆😆

    I agree with you that what the detective is like is essential to a mystery because the detective is the main character that appears frequently. I think no one would like to live with a person he or she dislikes every day.

    I love Poirot and Marple because they’re charming and respectable! Though some of the plots are not refreshing, I still enjoy them because of those loveable detectives!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s