Agatha Raisin
Vol 1 - The Quiche of Death & The Vicious Vet

Author: M.C. Beaton
Starring: Penelope Keith, Malcolm Sinclair, Liza Sadovy and Ben Crowe
BBC Audio
RRP: 12.99
ISBN: 978 1 4056 8779 9
Available 05 November 2007

Penelope Keith stars as Agatha Raisin, the Columbo of the Cotswolds, in two full-cast BBC Radio 4 Dramas based on the best selling books by M.C. Beaton...

The Quiche of Death & The Vicious Vet is the first volume of Agatha Raisin audio plays to be released through BBC Audio. Both stories feature Penelope Keith as the curmudgeonous Agatha Raisin - a middle-aged woman who has retired from the cut-throat world of PR and moved from London to the sleepy village of Carsely. With too much spare time on her hands, she also discovers that she has a knack for amateur detective work.

The two plays on this double CD collection were originally broadcast on Radio 4 in May 2004 (the first as a one hour special and the second split into two half-hour parts).

The Quiche of Death: This story opens with Agatha retiring from the world of PR and moving out of London to Carsely. She is desperate to fit in, but doesn't have a clue how to, until she discovers that he big annual local baking competition is coming up. There's one problem, Agatha has never been one for cooking. Determined to win, she calls an old friend in London and invites him down for a few days, with the proviso that he picks up a quiche from an expensive London bakery before he comes down. But when the judge is poisoned after eating Agatha's entry she investigates and uncovers a web of extra-martital sex and pastry-based favours.

SPOILER ALERT (Skip the following paragraph if you don't want to read a major spoiler)

The biggest problem with this release is that nowhere on the CD sleeve does it let the potential purchaser know that this is Volume 1 in the series. We received this and Volume 2 at the same time to review and by pure chance I listened to Volume 2 before I listened to this release. As I listened to this CD, it was pretty obvious who had killed Agatha's neighbour in the opening episode. As I already knew that her neighbour was James Lacey, and he doesn't appear on the first episode, it was safe to assume that the murdered man's wife killed him - allowing the house to be put on the market. Okay, she could have moved away to start afresh because the house had too many memories, but you soon learn that she's not the sort of woman to let something like that bother her.

The Vicious Vet: A handsome vet is found stabbed with a syringe full of tranquilliser. Was it an accident or did someone put him to sleep? Agatha ropes her new neighbour James Lacey into helping her investigate who killed the village vet - and in the process they resort to barefaced lies, burglary and interfering with a crime scene before the police arrive.

Agatha literally bumps into her new neighbour after fleeing from the sexual advances of the vet. Her driving is hampered by a number of things - the fact that she's had a few too many drinks, the heavy snow and her need to get away from the vet as quickly as possible - and actually makes her fender bender much more believable. Things don't get off to a good start between Agatha and James - he's a pretty blunt character, thanks to his military background, and the two are more alike than they know.

As they investigate the unfolding murders, they make all the mistakes of a couple of have a go heroes without a clue of what they are doing. Again, this helps to lay the foundations of the series. Neither have any real background in criminology, and the fact that they learn as they go helps the listener to connect with both of them.

If you ignore the fact that the main character is obviously called Agatha in an attempt to fool the book buying public into thinking - at a quick glance - that this is an Agatha Christie crime series, this is an enjoyable collection of tales that comes to life incredibly well thanks due to the impressive vocal talents of Penelope Keith and Malcolm Sinclair.

Darren Rea

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