Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M C Beaton

Quiche of DeathAgatha Raisin is a PR executive in London who has had enough of the rat race, so she sells up and moves to her dream cottage in Carsely in the Cotswolds (which, if it existed, would be just round the corner from me). Funny thing about dreams, though, they’re never quite what you expect. Determined to fit in, although not quite sure how, she decides that acceptance will come from winning the village quiche-making competition. Given that she hasn’t the slightest idea how to make a quiche, she buys one from her friend in London instead, only for that evening, the judge drops dead after eating a slice of the quiche, which, rather than containing spinach, apparently now contains deadly cowbane…

UK readers who subscribe to Sky may have noticed a recent television adaptation of this book starring Ashley Jensen as (the slightly younger) Agatha. I’m not one of those people, so I thought I’d try the book instead, as there’s an outside chance that I’ll get a chance to watch the adaptation at some point in the near future. But I’ve been disappointed by the author before…

Hmm… actually, this was OK. I’ve certainly read much worse. It’s an undemanding read that passes the time. Yes, the characters are mostly caricatures – the author’s vision of village life never strays outside of stereotype – and, yes, the murderer is pretty obvious, and yes, nothing much happens in the middle section of the book and yes, there is a massive plot-hole – it’s not a spoiler to say that the killer’s plan needs someone to make a spinach quiche and if this competition is once a year, they’d have to be pretty patient… – and yes, the lead character, at times at least, is pretty unlikeable, but it passed the time and was enjoyable enough. For the first time, I can see the appeal of the author’s work. It doesn’t really appeal to me, and I probably won’t be back in the foreseeable future, but it’s far from the worst book I’ve read.

Not really recommended and I’m in no rush to watch the TV version (although it’s got a decent cast, so maybe), but it’s perfectly readable. But let’s not mention a couple of dubious adjectives describing the shape of Detective Bill Wong’s eyes…



  1. I’ve been disappointed by the author before…

    I tried one of her Hamish Macbeth series and my reaction to it was much the same as you describe here: not altogether dire, but there are better ways to spend one’s time than reading another.


  2. This is a mediocre novel, not worth reading.
    Yes, there are some dubious adjectives describing the shape of Detective Bill Wong’s eyes, but you should see the racial stereotypes regarding the Chinese in the Fu Manchu novels !


    • This is a mediocre novel, not worth reading.

      And yet, obviously, Beaton fills some kind of need for a lot of people, because her books are wildly popular. Is it possible that they’re readers who otherwise wouldn’t read anything at all? I don’t know. I do get uneasy, though, when writers’ efforts are just dismissed with a sneer.


      • Sneer ? There was definitely no sneer on my face when I wrote the comment. I simply stated my opinion as a matter of fact.


  3. I’ve only read one of these, and all I remember is how incredibly unlikable Agatha is. She’s really horrible. I couldn’t work out if it was intentional. And if it was, I didn’t really understand the point. The comedy, such as it is, seems too gentle to support the kind of cattiness on display.

    Obviously there’s a long history of unsympathetic detectives, but it seems to be that the cosier and simpler you make your mystery, the more pleasant your lead character has to me.

    Not my kind of thing, so I don’t really want to be any more critical. But I just found the whole experience a bit confusing.


  4. I’ve listened to one of the radio adaptations starring Penelope Keith but that’s it and I certainly didn’t warm to the main character, even then – I’m not exactly tempted to go further frankly …


  5. I agreed that Agatha is an unlikeable character yet her regency era novels as Marion Chesney are delightful (delightful fluff, mind you, but still delightful).


  6. I absolutely loathe Agatha Raisin. As the series progressed I was ready to rip the pages of the book and fling it across the room. Unlikeable is an understatement. And I agree, MC beaton’s Marion chesney novels are really nice and I even like the Hamish series.


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