M.C. Beaton, 1992 – Agatha Raisin #1
Oh, Agatha. You are so conflicted. You are also smart, intuitive, and lovable in your imperfect self.
In The Quiche of Death, Agatha tries to make a good impression on her new neighbors by participating in a contest for best quiche. Setting the stage for most of her behavior throughout the series, Agatha doubts her own quiche-creating prowess so she buys a quiche and passes it off as her own. Murder and comic misadventure ensue. I love this book without reservation, and the rest of the series does not disappoint.
The Agatha Raisin Series
As a the owner of a London PR firm, Agatha Raisin is a respected, feared, highly sought-after (insecure, vain, slightly unscrupulous) public relations expert who discovers that she also has a talent for solving crimes. Over the course of the series, she sells her PR firm and moves to the Cotswolds full-time, opening her own private detective agency.
A fixture in British cozy mysteries is the chief inspector of the local police. In Agatha’s Cotswolds, that chief inspector is Denzel Wilkes, an unpleasant man who resents Agatha’s ability to solve murders through what appears to be dumb luck. Happily, Agatha has made a friend of Bill Wong, a member of the police force who offers some protection and understanding.
Fixture number two in British cozies is the vicar. As it turns out, the vicar in this series despises Agatha as much Wilkes does. Agatha is again lucky, though, in her friendship with the vicar’s wife Mrs. Bloxby. She and Bill Wong both act as Agatha’s moral compass, nudging her gently toward good choices. (Sometimes it works.)
Of course there are other recurring characters, including friend-with-benefits Sir Charles Fraith, handsome bachelor neighbor James Lacey (who provides a major story arc that unfolds throughout most of the series), and Roy Silver, a young PR expert from Agatha’s former life as a public relations exec.
Although there are murders to be solved, I believe the crimes are incidental to the (sometimes very funny) development of Agatha’s relationships with these characters. I think you might agree. I suspect that Agatha’s insecurities are our insecurities, which is why we love her.
There is a British TV series based on a couple of Agatha’s adventures. Most of the characters are noticeably younger than their print counterparts. Like, decades younger.
Author M.C. Beaton, who also wrote as Marion Chesney, passed in December 2019. The series continues with a different author.