Celebrating 20 Years of Agatha Raisin-Brand-New Bonus Story Included!Putting all her eggs in one basket, Agatha Raisin gives up her successful PR firm, sells her London flat, and samples a taste of early retirement in the quiet village of Carsely. Bored, lonely and used to getting her way, she enters a local baking contest: Surely a blue ribbon for the best quiche will make her the toast of the town. But her recipe for social advancement sours when Judge Cummings-Browne not only snubs her entry-but falls over dead! After her quiche's secret ingredient turns out to be poison, she must reveal the unsavory truth…Agatha has never baked a thing in her life! In fact, she bought her entry ready-made from an upper crust London quicherie. Grating on the nerves of several Carsely residents, she is soon receiving sinister notes. Has her cheating and meddling landed her in hot water, or are the threats related to the suspicious death? It may mean the difference between egg on her face and a coroner's tag on her toe…
In this highly promising launch to a new mystery series, Beaton turns from the adventures of her Scottish policeman Hamish Macbeth to introduce the redoubtable Agatha Raisin. At 53, Agatha, whose personality is a piquant combination of brusque competence and fallibility, sells her London public relations firm to retire to the picturesque Cotswold village of Carsely. Determined to gain acceptance among the villagers, the undomestic Agatha enters a local bake-off. The judge, Reg Cummings-Brown, not only snubs her entry but later dies, poisoned by cowbane in Agatha's killer quiche. Of course Agatha is innocent: her "homemade" entry came from a Chelsea delicatessen. Knowing news of her cheating will light up the village, Agatha hopes to save face by proving Reg was murdered, even though the police think it was all a ghastly accident. But was Reg or Agatha the target? And why would anyone want to kill the popular Reg, whose wife was only one of "quite a lot of ladies . . . sobbing into their handkerchiefs" at the inquest? While the murder is occasionally overshadowed by Agatha's settling-in problems, Beaton's ( Death of a Snob ) playful depiction of village life makes it all a delicious romp.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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St. Martin's Paperbacks
March 06, 2006
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Excerpt from The Quiche of Death by M. C. Beaton
Mrs. Agatha Raisin sat behind her newly cleared desk in her office in South Molton Street in London's Mayfair. From the outer office came the hum of voices and the clink of glasses as the staff prepared to say farewell to her.
For Agatha was taking early retirement. She had built up the public-relations firm over long hard years of work. She had come a long way from her working-class background in Birmingham. She had survived an unfortunate marriage and had come out of it, divorced and battered in spirit, but determined to succeed in life. All her business efforts were to one end, the realization of a dream--a cottage in the Cotswolds.
The Cotswolds in the Midlands are surely one of the few man-made beauties in the world: quaint villages of golden stone houses, pretty gardens, winding green lanes and ancient churches. Agatha had been taken to the Cotswolds as a child for one brief magical holiday. Her parents had hated it and had said that they should have gone to Butlin's Holiday Camp as usual, but to Agatha the Cotswolds represented everything she wanted in life: beauty, tranquillity and security. So even as a child, she had become determined that one day she would live in one of those pretty cottages in a quiet peaceful village, far from the noise and smells of the city.
During all her time in London, she had, until just recently, never gone back to the Cotswolds, preferring to keep the dream intact. Now she had purchased that dream cottage in the village of Carsely. It was a pity, thought Agatha, that the village was called plain Carsely and not Chipping Campden or Aston Magna or Lower Slaughter or one of those intriguing Cotswold names, but the cottage was perfect and the village not on the tourist route, which meant freedom from craft shops, tea-rooms and daily bus parties.
Agatha was aged fifty-three, with plain brown hair and a plain square face and a stocky figure. Her accent was as Mayfair as could be except in moments of distress or excitement, when the old nasal Birmingham voice of her youth crept through. It helps in public relations to have a certain amount of charm and Agatha had none. She got results by being a sort of one-woman soft-cop/hard-cop combination; alternately bullying and wheedling on behalf of her clients. Journalists often gave space to her clients just to get rid of her. She was also an expert at emotional blackmail and anyone unwise enough to accept a present or a free lunch from Agatha was pursued shamelessly until they paid back in kind.
She was popular with her staff because they were a rather weak, frivolous lot, the kind of people who build up legends about anyone of whom they are frightened. Agatha was described as "a real character," and like all real characters who speak their mind, she did not have any real friends. Her work had been her social life as well.
As she rose to go through and join the party, a small cloud crossed the horizon of Agatha's usually uncomplicated mind. Before her lay days of nothing: no work from morning till night, no bustle or noise. How would she cope?
She shrugged the thought away and crossed the Rubicon into the outer office to say her farewells.
"Here she comes!" screeched Roy, one of her assistants. "Made some special champagne punch, Aggie. Real knicker-rotter."
Agatha accepted a glass of punch. Her secretary, Lulu, approached and handed her a gift-wrapped parcel and then the others crowded around with their offerings. Agatha felt a lump rising in her throat. A little insistent voice was chattering in her head, "What have you done? What have you done?" There was a bottle of scent from Lulu and, predictably, a pair of crotchless panties from Roy; there was a book on gardening from one, a vase from another, and so it went on. "Speech!" cried Roy.
"Thank you all," said Agatha gruffly. "I'm not going to China, you know. You'll all be able to come and see me. Your new bosses, Pedmans, have promised not to change anything, so I suppose life will go on for all of you much the same. Thank you for my presents. I will treasure them, except for yours, Roy. I doubt if at my age I'll find any use for them."