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Monday, October 14, 2019

Agatha Raisin offers up The Quiche of Death for my Series-ous Reading pleasure

While my FrightFall readathon is raging on, I've finished up my Series-ous Reading selection for this month and it's quite the English treat indeed.

Having discovered the ITV adaptation of M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin mystery series(via Netflix), I was curious to sample the first book which was made into the pilot movie for the show, The Quiche of Death. Granted, I did read one of the later titles over the summer entitled The Dead Ringer but sometimes it's best to begin at the beginning.

Our leading lady here is far from the meek and mild type, despite her rather quaint name. Agatha Raisin is a tough as nails Londoner who use to run a very successful PR firm. Having made a good amount of money and then some, she takes an early retirement by selling her business and buying a cottage in the small town of Carsely, set in the Cotwalds.

She's always wanted a home like this, due to her rough and tumble childhood, but the reality of such a laid back way of life throws Agatha for a loop.

 Feeling the need to connect with her new neighbors, she decides to enter the annual quiche competition judged by Reg Cummings-Brown, who is quite the man about town despite being married to Vera, who has a good fortune of her own.

When Agatha loses the contest(to Mrs. Cartwright, who suspiciously wins every year), she's less than thrilled even though her quiche was actually store brought from a deli out of town. She leaves her entry behind and the next day, Reg is found dead in his own living room, having had Agatha's dish as his last fatal meal. Once she confesses her contest cheating, Agatha is legally in the clear but the local folk cast an even more dubious eye on her:

Determined to still make a go of it in Carsely, Agatha winds up playing detective to discover who the killer is. She also joins a local ladies' society but that's not enough to make her feel more at home with everyone.

Agatha is not the most friendly type, more apt to make enemies than friends, yet she does get some emotional support from folks such as Detective Bill Wong, who gently insists that she not get involved in the case and Roy, a former employee of hers who thinks that solving the crime will make Agatha a popular lady indeed.

One of the strong points of the book(as well as the TV show) is the solid set of supporting players around Agatha, people with hidden and not so hidden quirks of their own that give a fully fleshed out dimension to the story lines put in place here. Roy in particular is charmingly over the top yet he balances out Agatha's blend of insecurity and forceful self confidence:

Despite having seen the pilot episode first, I did enjoy the book very much on it's own merits. The changes from script to screen were minor at best(some of them due to updating the tech elements since TQOD was released in 1992) and the twist of British humor into the overall plot was smartly done.

In fact, if I were to describe the series, I would say "Ab Fab meets Miss Marple"-as in Absolutely Fabulous, one of my favorite English comedy shows. In particular, Roy and Agatha have a real Patsy and Edina vibe(yes, Agatha is definitely Edina without Saffy) which makes their small town sleuthing adventures all the more fun. Just imagining those two gal pals trying to live a suburban lifestyle is too funny for words!:

All in all, Agatha Raisin and The Quiche of Death is a delightful read that, whether or not you've watched the show, is a must read for those who adore cozy mysteries with a British flair.

I do plan to read the second book(Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet) but not until next year as part of the Series-ous Reading line-up for 2020. In the mean time, I'm holding off until November for the next to last book for our 2019 titles which brings me back to Hannah Swensen.

My delay is not only because of my need to complete as much of the FrightFall readathon as I can(plus a library loan that is due back sooner than expected) but that Key Lime Pie Murder sounds way more suitable for Thanksgiving, which is pie season in my humble opinion.

Granted, the story takes place during a summer fair and key lime is not considered a traditional Thanksgiving pie flavor yet why not? From what little I know, there is an air of mystery surrounding the origins of key lime pie and that's enough to satisfy my inner sweet tooth for culinary crime solving there:

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