Wow, it feels like forever since I posted a review. We bought a house last month and everything else has been on hold while we moved and settled in. In that time, I discovered Agatha Raisin and found that she was perfect for stressful times of life.
The Agatha Raisin series is about a middle-aged woman, Agatha, who retires from her high-powered job in London for a quiet life in the Cotswolds. Unfortunately, chaos and murder seems to follow her and she finds herself mixed up in one murder case after another. Fancying herself a bit of an amateur detective, she and her handsome neighbor James Lacey try to help the police solve the crimes.
I’ve recently become hooked on audiobooks, and the first book in this series (Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death) was available for free on Audible. I drive a lot for work and audiobooks are essential. For the first half of this book, I wouldn’t say I was enjoying it, exactly (although Penelope Keith is a great narrator and does all the voices, essential when you’re listening to a book with a lot of dialogue), but I liked it enough to keep going and to listen to the second one. The first book has a great deal of setup–it seemed to take hours of narration before Agatha was finally settled in the Cotswolds and before she became the prime suspect in the murder of a man who ate a poisoned quiche. But when I started listening to the second book, (Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet), I found myself frequently laughing out loud. There are some truly funny moments in these books. Agatha has a rather unfortunate way of always making the worst possible decision in a stressful situation (the part, I think it’s in Book 2, where she tries to cover up a pimple during a date is a real highlight), and her bad decisions made me laugh and also made me feel for her.
These books are cozies, so the mysteries are never scary and usually not even that suspenseful. We know the characters we care about will be all right in the end. I found some of them predictable, but a couple of the murder reveals did surprise me. Agatha is of course surrounded by a village of charming eccentrics, but they are a pleasure to read about. In fact, in book 3 (Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener), the murder and subsequent investigation don’t even happen until at least halfway through the book. The first half is all about the village where she lives, and the local drama with the inhabitants. I found that it was my favorite of the series so far. There’s something about small-town drama and rivalries that just tickles me. I could read an entire book that was nothing but the society column from a small-town newspaper.
The fourth, Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley, is probably my least favorite so far. Rather than focus on Agatha’s small Cotswold village, it focuses on a neighboring one, and perhaps that’s why I liked it less. I’ve grown quite fond of the village of Carseley. The fifth in the series, and the last I’ve read so far (there are almost 30 so far, so I’ve barely scratched the surface), however, was a true delight. There’s a disastrous wedding, a series of strangulations (the first murders in the books that kind of creeped me out), and some drunken shenanigans.
The Agatha Raisin series is not great literature–it’s not even really good–but it’s great fun and pleasantly mindless. Listening to these books has been a great stress relief for me during a stressful time. I don’t know that I’ll finish the entire series any time soon, but they’ve been a comfort to me and it’s nice to know they’re there in the future if I should need more distractions.