Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death

(Agatha Raisin, #1)

When Mrs. Agatha Raisin decides to retire early to the English Cotswolds, she envisions herself enjoying all that country life has to offer: garden parties, tea at the vicarage, and a cozy home far from the noise and smell of London. Life in the village of Carsley is not as Agatha anticipated, however. Much to her surprise, she doesn't attract much interest among the villagers. No one comes to call; there are no invitations to tennis or tea. A miserable Agatha is forced to acknowledge that she is but another newcomer to the well-established Carsley society. Agatha didn't succeed in business by being a shrinking violet, though, so she shakes off her doubts and resolves to make her mark on the village: She will enter Carsley's Great Quiche Competition and win! The fact that Agatha has never baked so much as a potato in her life doesn't stop her; she submits a delectable store-bought quiche as her own. Having dusted off her mantlepiece to accommodate her silver cup, Agatha is stunned to see the award go to another entry. Her surprise turns to horror, however, when the contest judge drops dead - from poison the police trace to Agatha's "homemade" spinach pie. Agatha is now the talk of the town - though not exactly in the manner she had hoped. In an effort to clear her name, she turns amateur sleuth - as Beaton introduces a witty and well-crafted new mystery series peopled with quirky characters and all endearingly eccentric sleuth.

"It helps in public relations to have a certain amount of charm and Agatha had none."

I'm not sure how to classify this one - I suppose it's a cozy hybrid with a golden age type. It defies common cozy rules such as no swearing, a sweet main character, and a suitable feel-good vibe. Instead Agatha is moody, surly and rebellious - there's plenty of drinking, unhealthy eating, and a morbid humor that totally raises the bar for this mystery.

Agatha certainly wasn't what I was envisioning by her name and knowing this was a cozy going in - I pictured an elderly sweet lady who bakes. Instead I get a middle aged woman who is lonely, doesn't fit in, has no idea how to cook, and steals her neighbors maid because she hates to clean. A refreshing change!

The mystery part is good to as it incorporates the humor - instead of baking a quiche, Agatha buys one - but this doesn't help when the judge is murdered via poisoning. It wasn't easy to solve the crime as Agatha first dives in with enthusiasm and out of boredom for sleuthing, but she cautiously keeps stepping back when it hands her in hot water. There's different leads that go to the road of false suspects, so the ending is a nice surprise on who it ended up being and exactly how. I like how the author laid down clues to find as the mystery revealed, and not all at the end to where it would finally be revealed for the reader to guess.

The writing style is good for this type, not too personalized and distant with some of the emotions, but the characters come across genuine enough in an amusing way, reminding me more of a golden age style.

As a small side note, that Agatha got into reading big time was a joy - not adding to the plot, but adds to the fun of reading about a character reading. How bookworm is that?

There are 27 books in this series - wow. I only have the first, but I'll keep my eye out for others.