“Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death” by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (1992).
St. Martin’s, 201 pages, $17.95 hardcover 
ISBN 0‑312‑08153‑7

When we first meet Agatha Raisin, she’s 53 years old and about to retire from her public relations job in London to a cottage in the Cotswolds: “The Cotswolds in the Midlands are surely one of the few man‑made beauties in the world: quaint villages of golden stone houses, pretty gardens, winding green lanes and ancient churches […] to Agatha the Cotswolds represented everything she wanted in life: beauty, tranquility and security” (1).

It’s hard to begrudge Agatha her coveted retirement bliss. After all, she’s had a tough life. The child of alcoholic parents, she was forced to leave school and go to work at an early age. As soon as she was old enough she left her parents and went to London, where she worked her way through secretarial classes. She went to work at a public relations agency apart from learning about business people like Jimmy John Shark, and learned all she could before starting her own business, which she’s built up “over long hard years of work.”

As a young woman Agatha was married briefly to the charming Jimmy Raisin. Once she admitted to herself that Jimmy was a drunk, Agatha walked out on him one day and has never heard from or of him since. She assumes he’s dead by now.

So who wouldn’t expect Agatha Raisin to be a bit gruff, a bit self-centered, a bit harsh? Now, after selling her business for a tidy sum, Agatha is off to fulfill her life-long dream. She’s determined to impose herself upon the village of Carsley. But is Carsley ready for Agatha Raisin?

On her first few days in the little village Agatha is offended that the villagers’ warmth does not extend beyond the superficial greetings of common courtesy. But no matter. When she sees posters announcing the annual quiche-baking contest, Agatha knows she’s found just the way to find acceptance in the village: she’ll submit the prize-winning quiche. So what if Agatha’s culinary skills don’t extend beyond warming frozen dinners in the microwave oven? She’ll just drive on into London and buy a smashing quiche at her favorite deli.

Agatha’s position in the village becomes even more tenuous when Mr. Cummings-Browne, judge of the quiche contest, dies of poisoning after eating Agatha’s quiche. Now, as Agatha sees it, the only way she can stay in Carsley is to find out who murdered Mr. Cummings-Browne. As she crashes her way through village society looking for the information she needs, Agatha Raisin learns a thing or two about life in a small, enclosed group.

Will Agatha solve the mystery and remain in her cottage in Carsley? To do so, she’ll have to mellow a bit. But not too much—without that edge to her personality, she just wouldn’t be the same Agatha Raisin.

© 2000 by Mary Daniels Brown

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