Snakes and Bastards – I love you, Agatha Raisin

22 January 2012

I have decided that from now on SUNDAY is BOOK REVIEW DAY here on my blog. I give it a week before I forget this resolution but let’s just roll with it while I am still all pumped up with enthusiasm, shall we?

Several people over the years have noted that my continued insistence upon using the word ‘shall’ is a bit odd, not to mention antiquated. Is it? Is it REALLY? No, of course not.

Let’s move on.

My love for Agatha Raisin began quite by accident. In that I liked the look of one of the covers and had also simultaneously come to the dismaying discovery that I am a bit too keen on what are dismissively known as ‘cosy mysteries’. You know the sort of thing – Rosemary and Thyme is a prime example of this genre as is, possibly, Murder She Wrote, although that can get a bit hectic at times, can’t it?

Unfortunately, being an INNOVATOR, I rather stupidly opted to read the most recent Agatha Raisin book first, scorning the notion that as it is a series and presumably in some chronological order, I ought to begin at the BEGINNING.

I regret this perfidy now, of course, but the damage has been done and I would urge you, dearest and in some cases not so dear, reader to BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING if you intend to read the Agatha Raisin series. It’s not a hardship, really – the first book is about her leaving her pressured job in London, taking early retirement and moving to the Cotswolds where in an attempt to ingratiate herself with the locals she decides to cheat in the local Quiche Making Competition. When someone is murdered with her quiche, it swiftly becomes clear that being suspected of murder by the villagers is far more preferable to them knowing that she cheated with *gasp* SHOP BOUGHT QUICHE…

I just typed ‘quiche’ so often that it has somehow managed to lose all meaning.

In my last post I absolutely URGED you all to add me on Goodreads and if you had done so you will have seen that over the course of the month between the 11th of December 2011 and the 12th of January 2012, I read FIFTEEN Agatha Raisin books.

I think it is fair to say that I rather enjoy them. I didn’t at first though. No. I was flummoxed by Agatha herself with her brusque manner, jealousies, vanity and bitchiness. What, I found myself wondering, are ‘bear eyes’ and how old is she meant to be, exactly? I came to love her though. She’s just so HORRIBLE and yet so sweet at the same time with her non existant social skills, embarrassment about her lack of cultural education and reliance on microwaved ready meals.

If you’re anything like me, which I sincerely hope you aren’t, then you will absolutely ADORE books with horrible characters in. The only reason I struggle through Jane Austen’s paen to the miserable existence of the dependent female, Mansfield Park, is for the sheer JOY of Mrs Norris. Likewise, Mrs Elton in Emma. Anyway, if you ARE like me then you will love the Agatha Raisin series as with only a few exceptions (the vicar’s lovely wife and the adorable Bill Wong), EVERYONE in these books is downright unpleasant. EVERYONE. It’s just glorious.

The most unpleasant of all to my mind are the men in Agatha’s life, who manifest like the most dreary and hideous game of Snog/Marry/Avoid ever. Seriously, her taste in men is DREADFUL. You find yourself wanting to reach through the page and soundly slap her while shouting ‘DON’T DO IT, AGATHA! THE GUY IS A PRIZE PLUM AND I SHOULD KNOW.’

You won’t find yourself taxed by the crimes being solved in these murder mysteries, but that doesn’t matter as what is on offer here is instead a smorgasboard of the divine Agatha and a bunch of really unrelentingly awful people. It seems to me like a collision between Midsomer Murders and Mapp and Lucia with surreal tinges of Joanna Trollope thrown in for good measure, which is just my sort of thing.

Anyway, if that sounds like your sort of thing too then I’d definitely recommend giving these a try. Personally I can’t wait for the next one to come out this September…