I’m not sure when I first came to M.C. Beaton, I have vague recollections of looking at the Agatha Raisin series in Waterstone’s when I was at university and I know I stormed through all the Hamish Macbeth books in my local libraries last year, but I can’t remember what first drew me to her books. I have read nearly all in the Hamish Macbeth series (and I love them), but this was my first Agatha Raisin mystery, although I have heard bits and pieces of the Radio 4 dramatisation staring Penelope Keith.
Agatha has taken early retirement from running her own PR firm in London and fulfilled a life long ambition to move to the Cotswolds. However village life does not quite meet her expectations and with conversation limited to ‘mawning’ and comments about the weather, Agatha is soon left wondering whether or not she made the right decision. As is typical with all good British villages, there is an upcoming village fair and Agatha determined to win round the villagers purchases a spinach quiche in a London deli and enters it in the homemade quiche category. Unfortunately for Agatha she doesn’t win…and her quiche ends up poisoning the local judge, sparking a murder inquiry with Agatha at the heart of it.
Since a young age I have always loved crime and detection stories (I have already admitted my love for Disney’s Basil the Great Mouse Detective and cite this as my first introduction to the world of crime), however in recent years I have been left slightly deflated by my lack of appreciation or interest in the latest crime fiction craze: Scandinavian crime thrillers. I have read Jo Nesbo and tried so hard to get in to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but they do nothing for me and I find I almost begrudge having to pick them up and read them. And I think I have found the reason why…armchair crime!
There is something about the cosy British detective story that gives it a special place on my virtual reading bookshelf; perhaps it is the British countryside settings, the amatuer detective who you can just picture in a quaint little teashop, or the whole ‘who dunnit’ finger pointing and clue searching that these books offer the reader, but for me I think they are perfect. They offer a form of pure and simple escapism where you need to work your brain cells if you want to catch the criminal, but you don’t need to worry about becoming bogged down with hi-tech crimes that require at the very least an interest in technology. Or at least that is how I see them!
Agatha Raisin and The Quiche of Death did exactly what I wanted it to…it allowed me to disappear into a world of ‘cosy’ British crime that wasn’t too taxing. I liked the character of Agatha, she is slightly haughty, but I like how she is beginning to change and realise that life is different in the country and that you need to make an effort if you want to be accepted. And I want to know what happens next with her new dishy neighbour! Unlike Agatha Chrsitie, M.C.Beaton’s novels have an almost throw away element for me. Yes I enjoy them, but I can’t say I would rush out to buy them, preferring to get them on loan from the library…and I can never really remember who the murderer was or the exact circumstances of the narrative, but that is besides the point. They are great for if you want to escape reality for a few hours, or if like me you used to work in a National Trust tearoom on your own and liked to read between customers/scowl at those who interrupted you at a crucial point of the story!
I can see I am going to become slightly addicted to the Agatha Raisin series, just as I did with the Hamish Macbeth series, but sometimes a little light murder is just what the reading doctor perscribed…and it might keep me sane when I start teaching again next week!