I have been a fan of the Agatha Raisin mystery series for a few years now, ever since I snuggled down with The Quiche of Death during a bout of flu. It was comforting to melt into the village of Carsley and follow Agatha bulldozing her way through a murder investigation in the calm of the Cotswolds.
The book first caught my interest after I heard a couple of episodes of the series on Radio 4. It was a dramatisation of the books adapted by David Semple and featured Penelope Keith in the title role. I have a fondness for Radio 4 plays and dramatisations and this snippet stuck in my head when I later came across the book series in my library.
The Agatha portrayed by Penelope Keith differs from the Agatha in the books (she's not so man-mad for a start!) and the dramatisation changes quite a few characters and plots but it is never-the-less an entertaining who-dunnit.
The radio series concluded in November 2006 and was described as being the last of the radio series. This spanned three series over a period of three years and the BBC have slowly been releasing the episodes on 5 audio CDs. The final CD was recently released this month and I think that it is the best of the lot. Even though the location in the final story is moved from Norfolk (in the book) to Cornwall (in the radio series), and characters are changed etc., it is still an enjoyable listen and the version of Agatha in these CDs has a happier ending than our Aggie does in the books.
The books currently stand at 20 with There Goes the Bride released in October 2009. I devoured most of them in succession and am now doomed to wait patiently each year for the latest offering, which is usually released each September/October. I think that these will continue for a little longer and I hope they do. The quality of writing throughout the book series varies, with the earlier books being stronger in writing, characterisation and plot, but I feel obliged to keep following Aggie in her quest for self-fullfilment.
I highly recommend the radio series and the books to all lovers of English cosy fiction. The stories are light and humourous and the cantankerous character of Agatha Raisin makes a refreshing heroine. Recurring characters and interesting backdrops make it a smooth and entertaining read, along with some original crimes. Fans of Penelope Keith may also like to know that she is the reader in the audio versions of the books.