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Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death is the first in a series of Agatha Raisin 'mysteries' written by MC Beaton. It is also the first I have read.
Agatha Raisin is a newly retired PR executive, who has upped sticks and relocated to a picturesque village in the Cotswolds to live out her dream. However, whilst everyone is freindly, Agatha struggles to make friends and finds not a lot actually happens. She decides to enter the Quiche competition in order to get herself known within the village. However as Agatha has never made a quiche in her life, she decides to buy one and pass it off as her own. However when one of the villagers dies after eating her quiche, village life livens up somewhat, but not quite in the way that Agatha expected nor wanted!
Agatha is an interesting character. She isn't very nice to most people, being a bit grumpy and abrupt, but her heart was in the right place most of the time. I still quite liked her as she had a bit of spirit about her, even as she thundered about rubbing everyone up the wrong way. The only other characters we really got to know was Roy, one of Agatha's former colleagues, and Bill Wong a local policeman who befriended her. The other villagers are interesting enough but sometimes border on caricatures. In a short, light book like this it didn't actually bother me.
The mystery aspect is entertaining enough and there is a fair amount of amusing moments caused by Agatha's 'nosey-parkering'. It isn't a dark thriller or twisting mystery, and in some respects reminded me of Mma Ramotswe if the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency - except not set in Botswana. The story is as much about the people as it is about the mystery.
I would definitely read another book in this series again and recommend it for those looking for a quiet read.
==Synopsis of the book:==
Agatha Raisin at 53 has decided after a successful career running her own PR company to retire from active life. She has sold the business, her home and has bought a cottage in a small village called Carsely. However will she able to adapt to life in the Cotswolds after the fast pace of her former London life?
She realises she needs to make friends and get herself known in her new community. So she decides to enter the village quiche competition. The only problem is she can't cook and has spent the last twenty plus years living of takeaways, microwave meals or dinning out. She knows a good establishment in London for authentic quiches so she purchases a quiche. To her disgust she does not win the competition and tells the judge Mr Cummings-Browne he can keep it. The following day the Police visit Agatha and advise her that her quiche has poisoned Cummings-Browne and he is dead. Agatha has no choice but to come clean about cheating but now she must also clear her name of the murder of this popular man.
==My thoughts on the novel:==
I thought this was a good crime thriller. For me this series of stories would appeal to the more mature readers within our society. My reason for saying this is they are interesting, well thought out stories, but for me they lack the depth and modern technology required to solve crimes. For this was a gentle read, I did not feel overly taxed by it and it did not challenge me as a reader. But that can be a positive or a negative as sometimes it is good to read a thriller that is an easy read. I can imagine this would be a popular holiday read as it is quite light.
This is not the first book I have read from M.C Beaton or indeed the first in the series I have enjoyed. Beaton is best know for two series of crime stories, the Agatha Raisin ones and the Hamish Macbeth. The Macbeth stories have been transferred successfully to television. While the Raisin series now number 23, I had previously read various stories within the series. I thought this time it would be good to read the first and see how the Agatha Raisin books began.
I don't really know what I expected from the first in the series, but as far as I am concerned where the author choose to start Agatha Raisin's story it was a great selection. I say this because she was giving up her successful career and starting in essence a new chapter in her life. As a result I found her new life interesting and enjoyed the challenges she was to face. It was almost like we were experiencing a shared newness and I found that helped me grow to like this character in her new surroundings.
My decision to purchase this book had been made on the grounds that I have enjoyed all the other books in the series. I found this one and bought it second hand at Amazon for under three pounds.
Although a new one is currently on sale for just 4.34. Added to which I liked the sound of it from the summary of the story. This was a good three paragraphs long and I liked the idea of her cheating in this competition and getting found out. In addition I thought the title of the book was unusual and interesting.
When I began the story I found I instantly liked the style of author employed. I felt it was a light hearted read and one in which the leading character was a most unusual lady. She reminded me of a modern day Miss Marple, but whereas Miss Marple or was a harmless old lady Agatha is a 53 year old lady who wants to be involved in everything. She has bound of energy and what particularly appeals to me is she is far from perfect in fact she is quite often bad, such as trying to pass a bought quiche as her own work.
The story had a good feel about it and I found very quickly I was immersed in it. The plot was never too complex, it was basically a well thought out story. I really liked the fact the Agatha really cheesed of the locals who she was trying to befriend but her actions backfired on her. This helped me to feel empathy with her when in truth she is a character I have little in common with and so could in theory struggle to understand or like.
I think the main reason I liked this book and it was not a feature I noticed so much in the previous stories was the humour within it. I am not for one minute saying poisoning is funny, but because of the actions and what was happening mainly to Agatha it was a most amusing read. And because of good, crisp descriptions you were able to picture the scene and see the clever wit within it. As a result in some respects the crime and Agatha's investigation of it was almost secondary as I am sure when I think about this book it will be the humour within it I will remember not who committed the crime and why.
That said the investigation did have a variety of possible suspects and I did not guess the solution to it until it was resealed to me. And maybe because of the many humorous situations Agatha found herself in I did not feel the story had much in the way of mystery or suspense. Added to which I also felt the story lacked many twists and turns as the author choose instead to bring more humour in and make it a gentler more sedate read.
The pace of the story I felt was good all the way through and I liked the way Agatha like a typical amateur blundered her way along. And while excitement was generally lacking from the story, I did find the concluding chapters did try and redress this. As the ending was fast paced and well thought out.
I think I have already mentioned quite a lot about what I thought of the leading character in the series Agatha Raisin. She is a very feisty lady who quite often uses any means at her disposal to achieve her aims. And while this is not the sort of person I would necessarily like because of this but because she makes mistakes and does crazy things I find I like and respect her. As a result I want her to succeed especially in this story when at one stage it seemed everyone in her new village disliked her. In this story I liked her indecision about whether she would stay in the village as she missed her London life but then she was not so sure, this really endeared her to me as I could imagine most given her situation would feel exactly the same.
For me the stories length was about right to tell a good and interesting story. I think for the series to be a success it was important to introduce Agatha in may ways as a flawed character. And so from that point of view for me the humour and dry wit within the story was more important than the crime itself and the investigation of it.
I really enjoyed this introduction to the Agatha Raisin series of crime stories and as such I would recommend it. What I really liked was the humour within the story which you could argue took away from the investigation itself. The story was well written and always interesting, but lacked a complex or gripping plot behind it. As a result I found it a very light and easy book to read that did not really tax me, but was still enjoyable.
Publisher: Robinson Publishing
Year first published: 1992
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS January 2013.
Being the first book in the Agatha Raisin series by M.C Beaton it is this books job to capture the readers attention and captivate them into reading more of the books in the series. This book captured my imagination from the off, it is a very gripping novel and you want to know more as soon as you start reading. You want to find out why and how the person was killed and how the detective can solves the crimes by blundering in on various situations. It is also a humerous read and you can really relate to Agatha the main character in the novels. The book is worth every penny that I paid on amazon, however I did at first rent the book from the library and the enjoyment of reading it made me buy the series in one bulk collection as I knew I was going to enjoy the collection as the first book was enjoyable and a thoroughly good read. I would recommend the novel as a good start to the collection and it is a great read no matter how old you are as both myself and my mum enjoyed it. If you cannot read the book they are also available by talking book which would also be a great investment, well worth spending your money on and you would regret it, as it is the entrance to a world of fun, frolicks and the everyday worries of a middle aged single woman, desiring to impress every man she will ever meet through self cultivation and endless hours of grooming and surgery.
The Quiche of Death is the first book in the Agatha Raisin series. I read the first part on the Internet and thought it would be a good read and different to what I usually read so I bought it.
The plot is basically that Agatha Raisin retires from her highflying PR job in London to a small village in the Cotswolds. This has been her dream, however once it actually comes true, she finds herself bored stupid, and subsequently just to do something, she enters a quiche competition. Mysteriously her quiche manages to kill one of the judges and it's not down to her bad cooking but poison. She turns into Miss Marple to find out who the poisoner is.
I found this story an easy read with some humours parts. I'm surprised they haven't turned it into a television series as it seems just right for tv. I haven't read any other books from the series yet, but will probably go by the titles when I choose to read another one. I'd say this book is ideal for when your doing long distance travelling or just something to pick up when you've nothing else to do.
Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death is the first book in the Agatha Raisin series written by author M C Beaton.
ABOUT THE PLOT
Agatha Raisin has just taken early retirement from being a high flying PR guru and has bought her dream cottage in a peaceful Cotswold village called Carsely. In order to fit in with the villagers she decides to enter a quiche making competition but not being very domestic she buys a quiche and enters it as her own creation.
Unfortunately one of the judges dies and it's apparently from having eaten Agatha's quiche - so she must turn detective to find out how it happened to ensure she doesn't get arrested for murder!
The book starts off with Agatha (who we are told is 53) at her early retirement leaving party from her successful business and in the first pages of the book Agatha's character is described as having dragged herself away from her roots of being brought up in a Birmingham council estate and having bettered herself with her own determination and now having shed her Birmingham accent (of which she seems very ashamed) she has perfected a Mayfair accent "except in moments of distress or excitement, when the old nasal Birmingham voice of her youth crept through". She is described as lacking charm and "she got results by being a sort of soft-cop/hard cop combination; alternatively bullying and wheedling on behalf of her clients" and that journalists would give press to her clients just to get rid of her. In these first pages we meet Roy Silver, one of her assistants who is rather a weak character in his 20s - he is to become a regular character in this series of books. We also see Agatha very craftily retain the services of a cleaner (another regular character in the series), Doris Simpson, by luring her away from her current employer.
So very early on in the books we get a good glimpse at what Agatha is like as a person, she has no friends and she is feared and somewhat respected in the business world. I don't find her character particularly likeable and one wonders whether this is a deliberate ploy on M C Beaton's part. Agatha is insecure about her age and her lack of friends and is described as mousey looking with bear like eyes.
Within the first few chapters we also meet Mrs Bloxby, the vicar's wife, who is a kindly person and becomes a good friend of Agatha's, although throughout the series they call each other Mrs Bloxby and Mrs Raisin respectively which I found rather quaint. Many of the female characters in the village are referred to rather formally as Mrs or Miss and Agatha joins the Carsely Ladies Society and in the course of her duties has to help out those less fortunate than themselves. The Boggles are an elderly couple that Agatha gets "volunteered" to drive around and they are extremely rude and ungrateful and out for whatever they can get financially and otherwise. I really did feel that the author went out of her way to make as many of the characters in the book as unpleasant as possible - this means that the reader doesn't really empathise with many characters and most strange was the fact that Agatha Raisin is not a more likeable character which to mind is quite important when you have a series based around one main character and her "adventures".
Another couple of characters introduced in this book are Bill Wong who is the local policeman who becomes Agatha's first friend even though he's a few decades younger than her and we also meet James Lacey, Agatha's new neighbour who looks set to become her love interest, who initially finds her rather batty.
All in all, I can't say I was surprised to find out who the actual murderer was but I was more surprised that I didn't actually care anymore by the time I got to this disclosure. As an introduction to the characters and the first book in the series, I think I expected to be more impressed with the book but I found the characters generally too one-dimensional - either you like them or you don't and I really do expect to like the main character in a book!
The style of the book is very easy to read - you don't have to concentrate too hard on the story and it can be easily put down and picked up later without finding it difficult to get back into.
The cover is also quite easy on the eye, a pleasant scene depicting village life with a tractor, a few villagers standing around talking, someone walking their dog and sheep in the nearby fields with a flock of birds flying overhead...
Strangely enough (to my mind) the book seems to have received good reviews; Anne Robinson says "Irresistible, unputdownable, a joy" and Booklist says "A refreshing, sensible, wonderfully eccentric, thoroughly likeable heroine." I definitely do not agree that Agatha Raisin's character comes across as sensible or even likeable, so I honestly wondered if Booklist had read about a different Agatha Raisin to the one I had read about!
Having read quite a few books in this series, I would say that this one is by no means one of the best ones. I wanted to read it to find out how the series started but I think Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage was the first one I read which I found much more entertaining to read than this one. Having giving that one 8 out of 10, I can only give this particular book in the series just 5 out of 10. This is definitely not one that's staying in my permanent library!
First published in the USA: 1992
Released in the UK by Robinson Press: 2002
Time to read: 3 or 4 hours in total
Cover price: £5.99
This review may appear on other consumer review sites under my same username.
I'm sorry to break the news to you, but Agatha Christie is dead. In fact, despite the numerous TV and film adaptations that adorn our screen every year the woman has been dead for over 30 years and counting. No more new adventures from lovable Miss Marple or eccentric Monsieur Poirot, just the same stories told again with a different set of actors. This is no bad thing in itself as each generation of viewers get to experience the stories designed for the time. The trouble is that I know all the killers, murderers, blackmailers, poisoners, bigamists, gypsies, tramps and thieves - I need something new, modern, but perhaps still laced with some of Christie's sardonic wit? I did not think I would find such things in a book I borrowed off my Mum...
The humble detective comes in all shapes and sizes and in the case of Agatha Raisin we have something a bit different from the norm. Agatha is a ballsy woman who has retired early to live in her dream cottage in the Cotswolds. It's not long before she starts to wind up the locals and thinks her move may have been a mistake. Things get worse when a quiche she enters into a contest kills a man! Suddenly, Agatha's already frail reputation is in tatters and there is nothing she can do about it, or can she? With her forceful nature and quick wits Agatha decides to discover who is to blame for the death. She believes it was no accident and that murder is a foot. Can she find the killer before eating any deadly pastry herself?
I have to say that I was shocked by how much I enjoyed 'Quiche of Death'. I was expecting something a little fuddy duddy and not relevant to me at all. However, I find that good writing and humour will cover any audience no matter the gender, age or nationality. What 'Quiche' has got going for it is a great central character in Agatha Raisin. This is not a truly likable woman as she is fussy, pushy and a little selfish. However, rather than detract from the story Agatha's foibles actually add to the humour and give the story a far more human appeal. Like Marple and Poirot, Agatha is an eccentric who solves things often by going up against other people and getting in the way!
Having a great central character is one thing, but without a decent setting and story they can be left to flounder. M C Beaton has created a picturesque ideal of the Cotswolds and placed Agatha there. Like in her 'Hamish Macbeth' novels Beaton does not aim for high end prose, but accessible and fun crime fiction. This is certainly the case as Beaton's chocolate box view of the British country way of life is nicely laced with a little arsenic. A lot of the entertainment in this book is found when Agatha tries to get one up on the local woman be it by buying a quiche and pretending it's hers or by spreading gossip. This back biting, village concept has been shown well on TVs 'Desperate Housewives' and it works here too.
With a great set of characters and an idyllic setting it's perhaps the story itself that is slightly too coy for its own good. The mystery is set up well with a man dying from poisoned quiche, but the way in which the killer is revealed is perhaps not as satisfactory as I would have liked. What has to be taken into consideration is that this is the debut novel of Agatha Raisin and therefore a lot of the book is aimed at fleshing out her character and surroundings, to the detriment of the story. Personally, I find this is little sacrifice as you get one of the breeziest crime novels around.
If like me you would not consider reading this because it seems too old fashioned please reconsider. It is perhaps not the deepest crime fiction around but it's well realised sense of character and place means that the book is an effortless and enjoyable read. I don't know how long it's been since I have enjoyed a miserable character like Agatha as she struggles to clear her good name. The book is well written, fast and funny. If you are looking for something to fill a gap in your reading for a day or two then I highly recommend this piece of good fun reading.
Author: M C Beaton
Price: amazon uk - £4.79
play.com - £5.49