Curates and Quiches with Agatha Raisin: Deliciously Entertaining

When a little free library opened a few weeks ago in my village I absolutely had to take a gander.  With shops and libraries closed, this was the only way I could indulge in my favourite hobby of book browsing. 

I thought I would come away empty handed but then, tucked away behind the multiple copies of James Patterson and John Grisham novels, I found two slim volumes by M C Beaton. 

I’ve never read any of her Agatha Raisin series and probably wouldn’t have been tempted except it just so happened I was in the mood for something not too demanding. 

Wit And Humour

And that’s exactly what I got. Book 1, Agatha Raisin And The Quiche of Death, and Book 13, Agatha Raisin And The Case Of The Curious Curate are both delightful escapist novels. I thought I would be mildly entertained but I wasn’t expecting to encounter books that were full of such sharp wit or to feature such an enjoyable non-PC character. 

It’s the character of Agatha Raisin, a retired PR queen turned amateur sleuth. that makes the difference in this series. She’s absolutely the star of the show. Without her we’d just have pretty cottages, slightly amusing mysteries (nothing too gory or nasty) and quaint village traditions. 

Agatha is definitely not in the Miss Marple mode. Instead of a neatly dressed, quietly spoken amateur sleuth with an acute understanding of human nature we get a brash and prickly career woman.

As the series opens, Agatha has decided to sell up her public relations company and move to a picturesque cottage in the Cotswolds. Accustomed to the buzz of parties and launches, she finds rural life is harder than she imagines. The locals in the village of Carsley are not hostile but don’t go out of their way to welcome her or include her in their social circle. Without friends and work, she quickly becomes bored. 

No one asked her for tea. No one showed any curiosity about her whatsoever. The vicar did not even call/ In an Agatha Christie book the vicar would have called, not to mention some retired colonel and his wife. All conversation seemed limited to ‘Mawnin’, ‘Afternoon’, or talk about the weather. For the first time in her life, she knew loneliness, and it frightened her. 

To stamp her mark on the village she decides to ingratiate herself with the locals to enter the annual ‘Great Quiche Competition’ . Never having baked anything in her life, she resorts to cheating, buying her ‘entry’ from an expensive London delicatessen. Unfortunately the competition judge dies after tasting her quiche. Agatha’s duplicity is revealed. Shame turns to anger when she is blamed for his death. It spurs her to turn detective and find the murderer herself.

Her methods are unorthodox and she finds herself in more than one scrape before the crime is solved. It’s great fun watching this woman’s inept attempts at detection and all the false trails she follows.

When I caught up with her again in Agatha Raisin And The Case Of The Curious Curate, it was to find that she’d become a fixture in the village. In the intervening years she’d married (twice). Husband number two has just dumped her; the launch she took on as a freelance project turned out to be dull and even her beloved London had lost its sparkle. So it’s back to the Cotswolds and those microwave meals for one.

Bumbling Detective In High Heels

The arrival of a new curate in Carsley is just the tonic she needs. Even though “she swore she would never be interested in a man again” Tristan Delon is a golden-haired, blue-eyed dish. He has all the ladies in Caswell swooning over him. After an intimate dinner for two in his flat, Agatha falls for his charms. she begins to dream of an exciting new adventure with a toy boy. Her dream doesn’t last long – the very next day the curate is found dead.

When the eye of suspicion turns on the Vicar, the husband of her best friend, Agatha sets off once more on the trail of a murderer. What follows is often hilarious as Agatha bumbles around following up on clues, worming information out of people and annoying the local police force.

Just like The Quiche of Death, in The Case Of The Curious Curate, MC Beaton delivers some deliciously funny scenes. Agatha has a penchant for causing mayhem as she lurches from one theory to another. Though she is so often rude and forceful, by the end of each novel, I did find myself warming to her. I loved the image of this champion of justice fretting about her weight before bunging another high calorie meal into the microwave before heading off in high heels and tight skirt, to do battle with the villain behind net curtains.

Would I read another book in the series? I might do if I were ever feeling a bit down in the dumps and in need of a pure entertainment. I have a feeling they would work really well as audiobooks so I’ll have to look out for them via my library’s digital service.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on July 15, 2020, in Book Reviews, Crime and thrillers and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. I love this series for its sheer cosiness and fun. In fact, I am currently reading Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham! 😄

  2. I knew that M.C. Beaton had written the Agatha Raisin cozy mystery series but I haven’t read any of the book. The TV series was a favourite with myself and my family, however, this last series hasn’t felt as good. Hubby and the girls refuse to watch anymore. But I’m persevering.

  3. I do like the Agatha Raisin novels but can’t take a steady diet of them. One every now and then works best for me. Thanks for the reminder that I haven’t read one for a long time now!

  4. Having read every book over a period of several years, I can say the quality and content varies but Agatha Raisin stays true to form. The TV series is rather different but enjoyable. My favourite book is The Witch of Wyckhadden but it didn’t translate as well to the screen. Yes, BBC Radio 4 created good old school recordings.

  5. I’m not overly keen on Agatha as a character but I’ve listened to a couple of the audiobooks just for Penelope Keith’s fab narration.

  6. I love the Agatha Raison books, I always turn to them when I’m in need of something light and fun to read. I’ve listened to a couple recently on audio book and think that’s how I’ll read them in future. Penelope Keith does a great job with the narration.

  7. I think I should set up a free library on my front lawn – might be a good way to think the stacks…

  8. I’ve watched the series on TV a couple of times, but I hadn’t realised that there was an author behind it…

  9. I’d love to set up a little ‘bird box’ style library on my front garden, I’ve not really looked into it with determination, I hesitate that it might get abused.

    • That’s my fear too Rosie. We have a bus shelter outside our house and that gets regularly vandalised by local thugs so they would no doubt view a book house as a great target…..

  10. I had exactly the same experience with the audio version of The Quiche of Death. I was looking for something to make up an offer parcel and it was the only possible option. I listened to it in my regular hour before bedtime slot expecting to drop off early, but ended up really enjoying it. Mind you, Penelope Keith might have had something to do with that.

    • Oh she would be wonderful at Agatha. A brilliant piece of casting. I’m going to take a look for that now and see if I can get one of the books with her as the narrator

  11. These little libraries seem to pop up everywhere. There’s one now just around the corner from where I live and there’s a nice choice.
    Ive hear such good things of this series. Perfect entertainment. I like her Hamish Macbeth Series.

    • This is the first one in our village and really nicely made. I’ve taken a few books there to donate and it’s great to see that it is being used – the books have changed since my first visit though still very heavy on crime

  12. I’ve seen the TV series but not read any of the books, but I think I might now. The audiobooks should be good too, I believe Penelope Keith narrates.

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