Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death
M. C. Beaton
Constable & Robinson, 2004 (1992)
High-flying public relations supremo Agatha Raisin has decided to take early retirement. She's off to make a new life in a picture-perfect Cotswold village. To make friends, she enters the local quiche-making competition - and to make quite sure of first prize she secretly pays a visit to a London deli. But alas, the competition judge succumbs after tasting her perfect quiche, and Agatha is revealed as a cheat and potential poisoner. Definitely not the best start. So Agatha must turn amateur sleuth - she's absolutely got to track down the real killer!
This is the first book in the Agatha Raisin series, and it does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: newly retired Agatha Raisin moves to Carsely, a village in the Cotswolds, hoping for a relaxing life in the English countryside. Instead, she stumbles upon what I can only imagine is the first in a long line of murders. Feeling lonely and at a loose end since leaving London, Agatha takes it upon herself to solve the mystery and clear her name after her quiche apparently poisons Mr. Cummings-Browne, fellow villager and judge.
This was an undemanding read, but a fun one. Agatha isn't the most likable character to begin with: she's rude to her neighbours, pushy, unsympathetic and almost entirely without friends. She also has a good nose for a mystery and an inability to let things go. Always a sleuthing bonus. With the help of her ex-colleague Roy and the local policeman, Bill Wong, Agatha engages in a lot of light investigating until she eventually discovers the origin of the deadly quiche. The story moves between Carsely and other corners of the Cotswolds, and a handful of trips back to London, during which Agatha begins to realise that perhaps she isn't so eager to return to city life after all.
In between investigating the mysterious death of Mr. Cummings-Browne, Agatha attends village fetes and meetings of the Carsely Ladies' Society, she learns to cook, puts on weight, and discards her sophisticated London wardrobe for sandals and dresses. The subplot of Agatha becoming comfortable in her new home and gradually finding her place in the village was a nice accompaniment to the mystery itself.
The characters are broadly drawn but easily recognisable and the pace is gentle but constant. As a quick, light crime read, it was enjoyable and I'll definitely be picking up another one in the series in the future.
Overall rating: 6.5/10
Book source: Borrowed from the library.