Plot or Premise
Agatha Raisin retires from an active public relations life in London and settles down in a small town, expecting a relatively quiet existence.
What I Liked
The general premise is interesting, with a pie she enters in a contest ending up somehow killing someone. There are lots of characters running around, and once things settle down, it has the basis for a good universe to visit.
What I Didn’t Like
I struggled with three aspects of the story. First and foremost, Agatha herself is not particularly likable. She’s spent her career generally being oblivious to others, but now that she has moved to a small town, her intent is to get to know the locals and ingratiate herself. Except as she does, she basically does so rather offensively by trying to fake her way into winning a baking contest and condescendingly considering local efforts to organize anything as obviously underwhelming. Second, the whole murder is rather obvious to the reader, but even within the investigation, some elements are assumed away while ridiculous other parts are painstakingly investigated with no real avenue to pursue. And some of the information that people learn, with a weird out of place point-of-view shift at convenient moments, is held back. Finally, some of the characters are simple clichés, rather than fully formed. Supposedly that makes them “funny”, I just found them annoying.
I do have another complaint, but it doesn’t affect the rating. If it did, zero would be in the cards. The story is quite old at this point, and I was reading the first one from 1992. In the copy I bought, they included a short story as an extra, in honour of the 25-year anniversary of the book’s debut. Except there is no warning whatsoever about the story and what you’re about to read, and how it fits into the timeline other than it is present day. And yet, with no sense of spoiler, there are references to two characters and all that has gone on with them over the last 25 years. It’s not quite as bad as, say, reading the short story and it saying, “Oh, remember the case you had where the butler did it?”, it doesn’t give away murder mystery reveals, but rather it reveals the nature and extent of the relationship Agatha has had with two main characters in the series. I won’t even talk about it here, as they would be major reveals, and I confess I was quite dismayed to learn it from the shortstory. I am intending to read the whole series, but I’d rather not have known in advance.
The Bottom Line
Good start for a series, okay book on its own