“The Quiche of Death” aired on British television in 2014. Season 1, filmed in 2015, is just airing now on Acorn TV. The pilot functions as both a character introduction and background explanation for the series. We learn a lot about Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen) in this episode and get introduced to the recurring cast of characters.
Our first introduction to Aggie is when she has already packed up her home and her life, ready to turn over her business and retire. She’s moving to the Cotswolds, the idyllic village she remembers from her childhood. First things first, she has one more public relations nightmare to deal with, as one of the company’s clients, a pop star in a boy band, has been caught in an indiscretion. She takes charge and handles the situation, and it's clear to see how Agatha got to be so successful.
We leave London behind and jump right into village life. The setting is the fictional village of Carsley (fun fact: according to IMDB, the show is filmed in Bristol). We first get a helicopter shot of the village to show just how perfectly quaint it is. Agatha also thinks the village is perfect, and we then see the perfect cottage she’s purchased and the perfect way it’s decorated. Perhaps a bit too perfect.
When she meets the local police constable, Bill Wong (Matt McCooey), he notes that it looks like a show home. This is not a compliment. Everything is sterile and generic, with no reflection of her personal touch. We learn that Agatha is obsessed with having everything just right, as well as with her weight—she frantically works out in her exercise room and checks the scale to see if she’s lost weight.
On day one of village life, she manages to steal her neighbor’s cleaning lady, convinces the judge of the locale quiche competition to let her take him to dinner so she can pick his brain about what might be a winning quiche, and gets propositioned by him while his wife is in the restroom. Pretty full day if you ask me.
When Agatha’s show home is burgled, we get to see the local police force in action. This goes a long way toward explaining why she takes up investigating. The two police officers have a bit of a Laurel and Hardy act to them. DI Wilkes (Jason Barnett) tells her, “We’re going to need you to itemize exactly what’s been taken Mrs. Raisin.” Then he chuckles as he says, “We have to say that. We never find anything.” Aggie is not amused.
Agatha enters the quiche contest with a quiche she purchased at a shop in London. She is not afraid to bend the rules, and she is ever trying to impress others. She doesn’t win the contest, and we quickly realize that the judge who propositioned her gives the prize to the person he’s sleeping with. That night, the judge eats Aggie’s leftover quiche and dies from cowbane poisoning. Suspicion falls on Agatha, which brings out the fact that she didn’t make her own quiche. She does not win a lot of points with the villagers.
Enter Roy Silver (Mathew Horne), a former employee from her PR days and current friend. Roy sums it up for her, “Look at it positively, Aggie, you’ve already cheated, been burgled, killed someone, and you’ve been wanted by the Police. It’s plain sailing from here.” She sets out to deduce who murdered the judge to win the approval of the villagers. Agatha needs people to like her.
The rest of the episode follows Aggie’s investigation with Roy’s and her housekeeper Gemma Simpson’s help. The show is quirky and light. There is a murder, but enough physical comedy thrown in to make you laugh anyway. Aggie manages to solve the murder, of course, but almost gets herself killed in the process.
When a television show is based on a series of books, I always wonder how closely the screen will follow the page. Back in the 1995, a three-season show aired that was based on M.C. Beaton’s other longstanding character, Hamish Macbeth, a police constable in the Scottish Highlands. This was a great show, but the creators played around a bit with the characters. The show was also more of a comedy/drama, rather than a mystery like the books.
Agatha Raisin follows Beaton’s characters and plots much more closely. I was on the lookout for changes and saw only a few that were obvious. They include a few slightly younger characters, Agatha’s hair color, and how much the townspeople like her (book Agatha is quite prickly and can be difficult to like). All in all, they’ve done an excellent job of recreating the books.
Kerry Hammond loves all types of mysteries. She is a Book Reviewer and Blogger for Mystery Playground. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhammond88.