Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M C Beaton

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Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M C Beaton

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The first book in this long-running and popular series has been reissued to commemorate Marion Chesney's death earlier this year. It was first published on 12 November 1992 but has aged well.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: November 2020
Publisher: Constable
ISBN: 978-1472134714

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Agatha Raisin has taken early retirement and she's left South Moulton Street for a cottage in the Cotswold village of Carsley. She'd have preferred one of the more romantic names but at least Carsley is off the tourist trail with all the problems that brings. Now the problem is settling into a different way of life - and Agatha has never done small talk or even being pleasant to people. The first move is to enter the village quiche-baking competition and the beginning of the campaign is taking the judge, Reginald Cummings-Browne, and his wife Vera out to dinner. She knows she's being ripped off at the pub in the next village but this is necessary and it's a good investment as she knows that she's going to win. How? Well, her quiche is coming from a Chelsea Bakery...

Everyone warns her. Mrs Cartwright always wins the quiche-baking competition, but that doesn't put Agatha off. Settling into the village is important. She's already poached her next-door neighbour's cleaner and upset one or two other people but that's par for the course for Agatha: she used to run a public relations company. The quiche has to be left at the competition venue overnight but when Agatha goes the next day, Mrs Cartwright has won and she stalks out without taking her quiche. Vera-Cummings Browne takes the quiche home and leaves a couple of slices for her husband. The next day he's found dead: he's been poisoned.

Awkward.

Going back to the first book in a series is often disappointing: there's usually a lot of scene-setting and character-creation. Some of the characters are going to be familiar to us twenty-eight years later: we'll see Roy Silver trying to get as much publicity as possible and Bill Wong becoming a Sergeant on the back of the case that Agatha solved. M C Beaton's great skill was always that she could create a scene or a character in remarkably few words, so reading Quiche of Death doesn't leave you losing the will to live. It's also a good plot. I did (unusually) work out who did the dirty deed and how - but it didn't spoil the enjoyment of the read.

This rather lovely edition of Quiche of Death has been published on 12 November 2020 to commemorate Marion Chesney's death earlier this year. It was first published on 12 November 1992 but has aged well. As well as the introduction by the author we also have an amuse-bouche by Stuart McBride, who was a long-time fan and friend of the author and the affection and respect shines through what he has to say. Apparently, M C Beaton did not like this series (or, indeed the Hamish Macbeth series being referred to as cosy crime but for me, this is the essence of Beaton. I tried reading her as serious crime but the books failed miserably: the humour fell flat and the story didn't grab me. Once I realised that I should read it as humour, as cosy crime, the charm shone through.

Beaton's death earlier this year meant that we lost not just the author but some wonderful characters too. Hopefully, this new edition of the first book in the Agatha Raisin series will introduce more people to her work. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Quiche of Death is the first book in the series but you might like to read any future books in publication order.

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