M C Beaton has written Agatha Raisin’s 25th adventure! The long-running witty series continues without missing a beat with The Blood of an Englishman.

When Agatha finds herself attending the Winter Parva pantomime production of “Babes in the Woods,” she never figures on the Cotswold’s village losing its popular baker. Dragged there by the vicar’s wife, the only redeeming thing about the evening appears to be meeting the producer, Gareth Craven, who sets her hormones firing.

But moments after strutting on stage as a threatening ogre, baker Bert Simple disappears through a trap door as planned, and isn’t seen at the final curtain call. His body is found by the show’s producer, standing up and pierced by a horrible spike affixed to the platform.

When the good-looking Craven asks Agatha to help him find the murderer, how can she resist?

All of the usual staff at Agatha’s PI business are on hand, from the ex-policeman Patrick, the youngsters Toni and Simon, the older Phil and her secretary, Mrs. Freedman. And she starts where she should, with the biggest gossip in the village, and branches out from there.

There will be broken marriages and engagements, a blacksmith, temperamental feuds in the cast, and a whole lot more as Agatha’s team start to get too close to a killer. In her usual manner, Agatha manages to smoke her annoying cigarettes, have a few drinks, annoy the police, and find herself perilously close to death. And all while checking out the new antiques dealer she meets in a bar. Vintage Beaton.

In honor of Beaton’s 25th book, Minotaur teamed up with Stash Tea and sent along two boxes of tea for an afternoon tea party. Here’s my favorite RAISIN scone recipe, courtesy of Gail Monaghan, NY cookbook author and cooking teacher. These freeze well, just as she promised, and I’ve made them raisins but also subbed with chocolate chips and with craisins. All variations are excellent. Pop one in the toaster straight from the freezer and relax as your kitchen fills with the scent of a baking scone. And don’t forget the culpa Stash tea!

2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tblsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups dried currants
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup cold heavy cream

3 Tblsp unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Over large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt and the 1/3 cup sugar. Stir in currants. Add heavy cream and use an electric mixer to blend on low until all ingredients are just combined.

Dump dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead very briefly. Roll sought out to 1″ thickness. Use a biscuit cutter to cut scones, or as I do, a sharp knife to make triangles. Place 1″ apart on greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Use a pastry brush to paint topf of scones with the melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place sheet in center of oven and bake until golden, 12-15 mins.

Let cool on baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with butter and jam, or as they do in England, with clotted cream. Store in airtight container if to be used in the next day; or freeze up to 12 weeks and pop in the toaster when you have a craving for tea and scones!

My own favorite tea party was this past summer, when I spent the afternoon in London with mentor and friend, P. D. James and her assistant, the lovely Joyce McLennan. There was even a cozy on the teapot!