Only Roy can save us from this hell – spoilers below
It’s Fiction Friday here again in the dungeon. The light is dim and the walls are musty but the reading is… something to do. In my ponderous shelves I searched for a book and came up with the first in the supremely annoying Agatha Raisin series. It left me wondering just how painful gouging my own eyes out with a spoon actually is. Unfortunately for me, there are no spoons down here.
Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death is essentially what you would expect it to be. It’s a murder mystery in a quiet little English village and our hero Agatha Raisin has to clear her own name by solving the case. Otherwise everyone will assume she is the murderer which we all know she is not. I don’t really have any issue with the premise of the story or even most of the plot.
The thing I cannot stand about this book is Agatha Raisin herself. I absolutely hate this character. People say that Millennials are entitled but that generation has nothing on Agatha when it comes to that department. I am going to walk you through the book and tell you all the ways that Agatha just completely gets under my skin.
To be fair, Agatha Raisin definitely has her share of fans. This is a strangely popular series and there is even a television adaptation of it. I haven’t watched it and I don’t plan to. If you are a big Agatha Raisin fan, that’s fine. You and I are going to have to agree to disagree. The difference is that when guests in my dungeon disagree with me, sometimes they get lost in the mazes for quite some time. But I’m sure you and I will get along fine.
The story starts off in London where Agatha has decided to give up her successful Public Relations firm and go live in a quaint little village in the Cotswolds. At the party for her leaving she is given what I can only describe as an inappropriate gift of undergarments from one of her assistants named, Roy. We’ll talk more about him later but let’s just say he could be the key to everyone’s sanity in this whole series.
Agatha makes her big move and immediately hates it. She is able to afford an interior decorator to spruce up the place before she even shows up. Agatha is also not a big believer in actual truth. We know this because she watches a reporter in Riyadh on television and her first thought is that he should have just reported in front of a fake palm tree in London. Fake news at it’s best. I won’t go into how, you know, a journalist can probably report the news better where it is happening but that just gives you a glimpse into Agatha’s flexible morality.
She also has a bookshelf with cookbooks that she has never opened. She is specifically mentioned as having only read the kind of books you read to impress people. Then like a paragraph later the author mentions that Agatha reads Agatha Christie books. Those are not the kinds of books people read to impress other people. Those are the kinds of books you read because they are good. So, to sum up Agatha Christie good, Agatha Raisin not good. Also, the frequent mention of Agatha Christie novels is supposed to make you think, oh cute, Agatha Raisin, is also named, Agatha, just like that famed mystery writer who actually wrote good books. Ughh.
Throughout the whole book Agatha wants everyone to instantly like her but she never does anything that would let anyone like her. She kind of says hi to neighbors and assumes that they should all be best friends now.
To ease a bit of her growing loneliness she goes back to her old office to say hi to her old staff. When she gets there and sees that the company she sold it to actually did stuff to the office, she gets royally pissed. I mean, she sold it but she still expects the people she sold it to should do what she wants? What is that?
Agatha also bullies every single receptionist, waiter, or low level assistant she comes into contact with, She acts in ways that would get an actual person kicked out of an office or restaurant and in ways that had the book been written now, would have ended up as viral videos where she gets a nickname like Agatha the Annoying. Or worse. Use your own imaginations for that. If you need a suggestion, try rhyming it with Magatha the Mass Mole.
We also get a small glimpse into Agatha’s life when she was younger. To sum it up here, she leaves her alcoholic parents without a word. I partly understand that and if she was treated badly, it can make sense but she didn’t even leave a note or anything. Then she promptly marries an alcoholic man, lives with him for two years then leaves him without a word. This is becoming a pattern and it’s so blatantly obvious that the author put this little nugget in so that five books down the line the long lost husband will pop back up and annoy us all again. Agatha assumes he is dead, so that’s code to us the reader, that he is gonna pop back up at the worst time possible later in the series.
One of the very first things Agatha does in her new neighborhood is to steal the housekeeper out from under her neighbor. Because she could. She doesn’t even put an ad in anywhere. She simply asks her neighbor if she knows of anyone who cleans houses. The neighbor says she only knows of her housekeeper and Agatha goes and steals her. That’s awfully entitled behavior.
Still, Agatha wants to be loved and adored in her community so she sees that there is a quiche competition for homemade quiche. Agatha asks one of her neighbors how to enter. The reasonable reply she gets is that she can read the information on the flyers that are all over town. Does Agatha do that? Heck no. She instead decides to take her neighbors out to dinner to get more information about it. If I was her neighbor I would have been left wondering if Agatha was illiterate or just lazy.
Agatha gets the dirt on the competition, finds out that it’s consistently won by the same person year after year and decides to buy a quiche from a bakery. She has no qualms about cheating, or fairness, or being an honest human being for even the slightest of moments. Again, more entitled behavior here. And not only that but she thinks to herself that her quiche, that she did not bake, and clearly broke rules to enter, had better win.
The next day Agatha eats at a restaurant that has some rich and famous people in it. She thinks of these as her people even though she doesn’t know any rich or famous people. Yet it was stated earlier in the book that Agatha ran a successful PR firm with famous clients. Which is it?
You can probably guess where this is going. Agatha loses the competition and she assumes it is rigged because she didn’t win. Not because the same woman wins every year, because Agatha didn’t win. That night, the judge, Mr. Cummings-Browne, takes a bite of Agatha’s leftover quiche and kicks the bucket.
There’s a whole lot of plot nonsense that goes on but it’s the standard solving a mystery kind of thing you would expect. Instead of go through all that, let me just provide you with some insight into not only Agatha but some of the other characters and events that occur.
The cops in this town strike me as exceptionally dumb. First, they figure out that Cummings-Browne’s death was not from natural causes. Then they decide that it could not have been poisoning because they find out the quiche came from a bakery. Because, you know, packaged food can’t be poisoned once opened or anything. They also find out that the quiche came from Agatha so they promptly ask her to bake them a quiche. Look, I’m not Sherlock Holmes but if I suspect someone could have had anything to do with a poison quiche, I think the last thing on my request list is to ask that person to make me a quiche. And in my final evidence that the police here are not all that bright, one of the cops says that it couldn’t have been the wife because the murder had to have been premeditated. Uh, yeah, hello? That’s how most spousal murders occur (at least in fiction, not sure of the actual crime statistics). Anyway, why would having to think about it first mean someone couldn’t have done it?
Agatha is also seriously judgmental of people based on their looks. Herself included really as she is constantly thinking to herself that she is too fat. But she thinks that Bill Wong, the police officer is too small to be a police officer. She thinks her ex-assistant, Roy is too effeminate. And at random times she wants to slap people for laughing.
A lot of the time in this book is spent describing meals that Agatha eats and is annoyed she has to pay for at restaurants. In fact every single time she buys a meal for anyone other than herself she complains internally about the cost. But it seems to me she has a good amount of money, so that’s just being a cheap skate.
I also want to take a minute to talk about how although this is a crime mystery novel, and Agatha basically solves the mystery, she can somehow still be a terribly naive sleuth. For starters, Agatha wants the death to be a murder because that would be better for her since she could solve it and people would somehow forget about her cheating in the contest. My guess would be people would think, hey, there’s Agatha Rasin, the woman who cheated in the quiche contest, the judge dropped dead and she somehow solved the murder. Awfully convenient for her. It’s demonstrated in the book that Cummings-Browne was having affairs all over the place, yet Agatha and the cops are surprised that a lot of women go to his funeral. Once Agatha figures out who likely committed the murder, she rushes over to the suspected poisoner’s place and promptly drinks tea. How freaking dumb do you have to be to do that? And to only Agatha’s surprise the tea was totally poisoned.
But perhaps the most egregious example of Agatha’s annoying entitled attitude has to do with her ex-assistant Roy. You can tell from Agatha’s internal monologue that she barely thinks of Roy as a real human being at the start of this story and it hardly gets any better from there. She assumes that if she goes back to London and opens a new PR firm, Roy will automatically want to work with her again. When Roy comes to visit her, she complains about everywhere he and his friend want to go. For this charity auction thing she comes up with, she forces Roy to put on a ridiculous costume and pass out flyers. When Roy gets any credit for the auction in the press, Agatha hates it even though she told Roy he could have the credit for it. And she forces the poor guy to ride her bike instead of take her car to do all this. Then she has him help her inflate the bidding, justifying it to herself that it’s all for charity. Charity is great and all but Agatha is only doing this so that her neighbors will like her in the first place, so I don’t think it counts for much.
The conclusion of the book is basically that Agatha solves the case, nearly dies, is rescued by the cops, the cops take credit for solving the case, but we all get the impression we have not heard the last of Agatha solving mysterious deaths.
I propose an alternate ending to this. Let’s just realize at the outset that this little village that was basically at peace before Agatha came along now has a serial killer in it. I mean, she appears in 29 novels and 3 short stories. Assuming a body shows up in each one of those, there is no way Agatha is not the ultimate culprit. Here’s what we’ll do instead. Roy, you know you want to get rid of Agatha. She belittles you, she uses you, she even wants to control your love life. I’m sure you can’t stand her anymore than I can. Roy, I am begging you, invite Agatha over for some tea. She’ll drink it without question. You can slip something in there and we can be rid of her. The cops are too dumb to figure it out because you would have had to think of it ahead of time. You’ll not only get off scot-free, you’ll be preventing 31 future murders. Help us, Roy, help save us from this hell!
That’s all for this week but next week, I am going to take a look at A Hymn Before Battle by John Ringo and see if this is a quality piece of science fiction, or a bunch of swill just waiting to be made into a bad made for television film. Until then, stay silent and in the shadows as you exit Slick’s Dungeon of Dusty Tomes.
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