I know this sounds crazy, but sometimes, fictional characters become your friends. After plunging head-first into M.C. Beaton’s best-selling Agatha Raisin Mystery Series (Minotaur), that’s exactly how I feel about the blundering, self-absorbed, outspoken, middle-aged, sexually promiscuous, shop-a-holic, gin-swilling amateur detective, Agatha Raisin. What makes “Aggie” so appealing? Her misadventures are so over-the-top hilarious and her cast of supporting characters is so colorful that you wish they were your friends, too. And who wouldn’t want to visit a pal who lives in a cozy cottage in the Cotswolds? (Carsely was a quaint village free of murders until Agatha arrived!) 

Agatha Raisin possesses all the personality flaws I wouldn’t tolerate in real life but she thrills me, mystery after mystery. Perhaps it’s because Agatha has a heart of gold, which is probably pickled from all the alcohol she’s guzzled. And her loyalty, optimism, determination and insecurities make me root for her to find happiness like the rest of us.

In fact, my love for Agatha borders on obsession. Yes, I’m an Agatha-holic and I’m proud of it, and I’m hoping to convert you as well with my favorite Agatha adventures. 

In chronological order…here we go!

 Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (Book 1)

Middle-aged workaholic Agatha Raisin always dreamed of retiring to a cozy village in the Cotswolds. After years of busting her chops as one of London’s top PR reps, she takes an early retirement, sells her agency and moves to the village of Carsely and her thatched-roof cottage on Lilac Lane. Her pushy, abrasive personality is an impediment to making friends in her new town, so she decides to “go local” by entering a local baking contest. Never one to follow the rules, Agatha purchases her entry from an upscale delicatessen in London, believing that a blue ribbon will make her the toast of Carsely. Her recipe for social advancement sours when Judge Cummings-Brown keels over dead after eating her quiche. Agatha’s lies and meddling are revealed, making her even more of an outsider until she helps capture the culinary killer. Being the first of the series, the book introduces readers to a colorful supporting cast: former assistant Roy Silver, housekeeper Doris Simpson, the vicar’s wife Mrs. Bloxby, neighbor/love interest James Lacey and Detective Bill Wong, who all prove that Agatha is more lovable than she believes.

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 Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage (Book 5)

After four years of pursuing James Lacey, wedding bells are finally ringing for Agatha. There is one tiny problem, however, which Agatha has neglected to reveal to her fiancé; she’s still married to her first husband, Jimmy Raisin. She hasn’t seen or heard from Jimmy in thirty years, and believing (and hoping) he’s dead of alcohol poisoning, she’s ready to gallop down the aisle with James … until Jimmy stumbles into Carsely on the eve of their nuptials. Jilted at the altar, Agatha faces murder charges when Jimmy is found strangled the next morning. Sadly, everyone in Carsely believes she’s a murderess. Except for James. He and Agatha discover both Jimmy’s nefarious past and the other suspects who’d want him permanently silenced.

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 Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist (Book 6)

No one can ever accuse Agatha of giving up on love. She’s determined to win James back and departs Carsely to track him down at their intended honeymoon location of Cyprus. Until she can pinpoint his exact whereabouts, Agatha hooks up with a group of rich, obnoxious tourists who are not who they seem. The murder of one tourist at a disco reunites James and Agatha, the two then playing amateur detective to find the killer and prove their innocence. The trouble is that Agatha, closing in on the killer’s identity, becomes bait for their next misadventure. Beaton treats the reader to a marvelous romp around Cyprus, Agatha’s excessive attempts to rekindle a romance with James and all hell breaking loose when Sir Charles Fraith appears on the island.

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 Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham (Book 8)

Feeling her age and nursing the rejection by her flame, James, Agatha succumbs to the charms of a handsome, charming hairdresser in the neighboring village of Evesham. Mr. John not only rescues her coiffure from a bad home-dye-job but suggests that they become working partners for a chain of salons around the UK. When Agatha notices the fear he induces in some of his clients, however, she suspects that the fabulous Mr. John might be a blackmailer. On a lark, Agatha and Sir Charles embark on a quest for proof of the crime and discover much more than they bargained for. Of course, Mr. John drops dead in his salon while Agatha is on the scene, and Agatha finds herself follicles-deep in the catty local salon scene … and another scandal. Hilarious and disastrous hairdos follow as Agatha helps unmask the killer.

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 Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden
(Book 9)

Plagued by a major hairdo mishap, Agatha doesn’t want anyone in the village of Carsely, especially James Lacey, to see her balding head. She flees to the seaside resort of Wyckhadden to recuperate, where she checks into a Victorian hotel inhabited by guests who are as ancient as the knights of armor on display. The occult comes to visit when Agatha purchases a love potion and hair regrowth tonic from the resident witch, Francie Juddle, who is murdered shortly thereafter. Agatha becomes Suspect No. 1 but is also introduced to a handsome detective, Jimmy Jessop, who falls for her upon drinking the love potion … until Sir Charles Fraith arrives in Wyckhadden to muck things up. Poor Agatha can’t catch a break with men or murder or her precious mink coat as she investigates who actually silenced the Witch of Wyckhadden.

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 Agatha Raisin and the Love From Hell (Book 11)

Agatha finally realizes her dream — marriage to James Lacey — and it is a nightmare! For decades, James has been a confirmed bachelor and world traveler, and he’s set in his ways. However, those ways are on a direct collision course with Agatha. He dislikes her clothing, her brashness and — gasp — doesn’t want her working outside the home. There is only so much compromise a woman can take. Both have stubbornly kept their respective neighboring cottages and decide to separate, yet they yearn for each other.

When James disappears, a heart-stricken Agatha discovers he’s been having an affair with an old flame, Melissa Sheppard. He’s also been lying about other things, which makes his disappearance look dodgy when Melissa is found bludgeoned in her home. Did James kill her? If not, who did? Sir Charles Fraith, ever trying to seduce Agatha, steps up to help “Aggie” discover Melissa’s murder and clear James’ good name. Will James and Agatha ever find happiness together?

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 Kissing Christmas Goodbye (Book 18)

It’s October in the Cotswolds, but it’s never too early for Agatha to plan her old-fashioned Christmas extravaganza. Her private detective agency is thriving and, out of the blue, she receives a mysterious note from a wealthy woman, Phyllis Tamworthy, suggesting that one of her children is going to kill her on her impending eightieth birthday. Undercover at the birthday celebration, Agatha and Sir Charles are witnesses to Phyllis’ big announcement; next week Phyllis intends to change her will to disinherit her children. She’s planning to sell her Downton Abbey-esque estate to build a technical college dedicated to her late husband. Sure enough, the matriarch is poisoned at lunch and dies. 

The kids now inherit everything, which presents the perfect motive for murder. Seventeen-year-old Toni Gilmour becomes Agatha’s protégé, and along with Sir Charles, they interview the four ungrateful siblings, the sullen villagers and old acquaintances who bore grudges against Phyllis and vice versa. More importantly to Agatha, will James return from his travels to attend the party? And will the party be a success?

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 There Goes the Bride (Book 20)

Wedding bells are ringing in Carsely, but not for Agatha and James Lacey. He’s engaged to a much younger woman, Felicity Bross-Tilkington, and a jilted Agatha escapes to Istanbul to mend her heartbreak. When James and Felicity appear at two of the archeological sites she’s visiting, James is convinced she’s stalking him. Agatha returns home to lick her wounds and is seduced by a suave Frenchman who is a friend of the bride-to-be. 

On James’s wedding day, the bride is found murdered. All fingers point to either Agatha or James because he’s admitted his second thoughts about the impending nuptials to Felicity’s family … and to Agatha herself, who jokingly remarked that he should “shoot” Felicity. Believing in Agatha’s innocence, Felicity’s family hires Agatha to find the killer. With the help of Agatha’s youthful and photogenic assistant Toni, they track down the killer in an international manhunt.

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 Beating About the Bush (Book 30)

In the last mystery penned before M.C. Beaton’s passing, Agatha finds herself embroiled in a gruesome murder when she’s hired to investigate industrial espionage at the Morrison Battery manufacturing plant. Agatha becomes a laughingstock when she and her spunky assistant Toni discover along the roadside what appears to be a severed leg, but is, in fact, a fake. They are redeemed when they uncover the actual dead body of the plant manager’s secretary, Mrs. Dinwiddy, who suspiciously is wearing the identical shoe and stocking as the fake leg. 

The police quickly accuse Mrs. Morrison’s pet donkey Wizz-Wazz of the murder. Their circumstantial evidence is a hoof print embedded in the victim’s skull and the victim’s blood that’s covering the donkey’s legs. Agatha is unconvinced by the coroner’s inquest and senses a cover up. She believes Mrs. Dinwiddy was killed to prevent her disclosure of someone’s secrets. So Agatha sets out to prove Wizz-Wazz’s innocence and bring the real murderer to justice. Along the way, she irritates both friends and foes as she stumbles and bumbles through the investigation but somehow seems to get her man, or in this case, her donkey. And without disclosing any spoilers, she uncovers an international scheme in which nothing and no one appears as they truly are. (Read my review here.)

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 Hot to Trot (Book 31)

From the moment Sir Charles announced his engagement Agatha suspected that his fiancé, Mary Brown-Field, was trouble. From Charles’s perspective, it was a marriage of convenience designed to extricate him from mountains of debt, while Mary schemed to turn Barfield House, Charles’ ancestral home, into a spa/resort. While Agatha can’t prevent the nuptials, she can help Charles escape from Mary’s clutches before she drives him crazy. Mary, a champion equestrian, is murdered, leading Agatha and her loyal crew to investigate the world of horse shows. Her flamboyant sidekick, Roy Silver, and her long-suffering Girl Friday, Toni Gilmour, also join in the hunt for the killer. They discover Mary’s nasty reputation in the equestrian circle while the murder suspects multiply like flies around a horse’s tail. 

Now, with Charles and Agatha as prime suspects, can Agatha find the killer before the cops haul them to jail? Meanwhile, James Lacey, Agatha’s dedicated ex-husband and next-door neighbor, continues to pine for Agatha. He believes there may be more to her professional relationship with Charles but steadfastly hopes that she will eventually return to his loving arms. (Read my review here.)

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 A Preview of Down the Hatch (Book 32)

In the latest mystery, due out this October, Agatha Raisin returns to investigate the murder of “The Admiral,” a gardener notorious for his heavy drinking. Chief Inspector Wilkes dismisses the death as an accident, but Agatha isn’t convinced, especially after her agency receives a tip that the Admiral’s death was indeed no accident. To win Agatha back, James Lacey encourages Agatha to investigate, which once again leads to adventure and danger! 

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For me, Agatha Raisin mysteries are like an adult version of Scooby-Doo. They are filled with fun, exotic locations and engaging characters. The reader never knows what unexpected madcap craziness Agatha will bamboozle her crew into at the local pub, the neighboring village, on foreign shores or in Agatha’s cottage. The plots are always creative and believable and the killer is always the least likely suspect.

Author R.W. Green, the successor to the Raisin franchise, has said “Marion put a lot of herself into Agatha, although her own character traits were exaggerated out of all proportion. Agatha says and does things that Marion never would have but may often have wanted to.” Marion knew everything about Agatha, and thankfully, she shared her knowledge with Mr. Green before her passing. Now, Beaton’s legacy and our treasured friendship with the formidable Agatha will continue for many uproarious mysteries to come.