As the Pig Turns - By M.C. Beaton

Chapter One

Agatha Raisin wearily turned on to the road leading down into her home village of Carsely in the Cotswolds and then came to an abrupt halt. Cars stretched out in front of her. She pulled on the handbrake.

It was the end of January and a very cold month, unusually cold. The tall trees on either side of the country road raised bare branches to a leaden sky as if pleading for the return of spring. Agatha prayed it would not snow. It seemed as if two centimetres of snow were enough to close down the roads, because the council complained they had run out of salt and all roads leading out of Carsely were very steep, making driving hazardous.

What on earth was going on? She gave an impatient blast on her horn, and the young man in the battered Ford in front gave her the finger.

Cursing, Agatha got out of her car and marched up to the Ford and rapped on the window. The sallow-faced youth opened the window and demanded, ‘Wot?’

‘What the hell’s going on?’ demanded Agatha.

The youth eyed her up and down, noting the expensively tailored coat and the beady, accusing eyes and marking the ‘posh’ accent. He scowled. ‘Pot’oles,’ he said with a shrug. ‘They’re repairing pot’oles.’

‘And how long will it take?’

‘Blessed if I know,’ he said, and rolled up the window.

Agatha returned to the warmth of her car, fuming. She herself had complained bitterly to the council about the state of the road. But there were two other roads into the village. They might at least have put up diversion notices until the road was repaired. She contemplated making a U-turn but knew, considering her lack of driving skills, it would take her an awful lot of manoeuvring on the narrow road to do so.

A drip began to appear on the end of her nose. She reached into the box of tissues on the seat beside her and blew her nose. Someone rapped at the window.

Agatha looked out. A policeman was bending down looking at her. He was squat and burly, with a squashed-looking nose in his open-pored face and piggy, accusing little eyes.

Lowering the window, Agatha asked, ‘How long is this going to take, Officer?’

‘It’ll take as long as it takes, madam,’ he said in a thick Gloucestershire accent. ‘I am ticketing you for taking your hands off the wheel.’

‘My, what? Are you mad? I was simply blowing my nose. The handbrake’s on, I’m stuck here . . .’

‘Sixty-pound fine.’

‘I’ll see you in hell first before I pay that,’ howled Agatha.

He handed in a ticket. ‘See you in court.’

Agatha sat for a moment, shaking with rage. Then she took a deep breath. She started to negotiate a U-turn, but cars piled up behind her had decided to do the same thing. At last she was clear, just in time to see in her rearview mirror that the line of cars she had just left had started to move.

By the time she reached her thatched cottage in Lilac Lane, it had begun to snow, fine little pellets of snow. Damn all pundits and their moaning about global warming, thought Agatha. As she opened the car door to get out, a gust of wind whipped the ticket the policeman had given her and sent it flying up over her cottage.

She let herself into her cottage. Her two cats, Hodge and Boswell, came running forward to give her the welcome they always gave her when they wanted something to eat.

Agatha fed them, poured herself a gin and tonic, and then phoned her friend Detective Sergeant Bill Wong. When he came on the phone, Agatha complained bitterly about the policeman who had given her a ticket for blowing her nose.

‘That would be Gary Beech,’ said Bill, ‘the target fiend. You know we have to meet certain targets or we don’t get promotion. He goes a bit mad. The other week, a nine-year-old’s mother who lives in a cul-de-sac in Mircester chalked squares on the pavement for her little boy to play hopscotch. Beech arrested the kid and charged him with the crime of graffiti. And he charged a toddler with carrying a dangerous weapon even though the kid was holding a water pistol. An old-age pensioner was arrested under the Terrorism Act for carrying a placard saying, ‘Get our boys out of Afghanistan.’

‘What should I do?’

‘It’ll probably be thrown out of court. Or you could just pay the fine.’


‘How’s business?’

‘Not good. The recession is really biting. People just don’t