Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Miss Marple with an Attitude

After a long, long (long, long and so on...) time, Detectives series is back, with another lady detective (after Uma Rao) introduced to me by BBC’s Radio 4.

All who know her compare her with Miss Marple. She is exactly like Miss Marple, if Miss Marple had lived in late 1990’s, was 20 years younger, wanting to be 40-50 years younger, and a widow (so she says), though raring to get out of it. Presenting…

Agatha Raisin

Her Name: Mrs. Agatha Raisin

Her Watson: Maj. James Lacey (her neighbour, and later fiancé), Roy Silver (her old employee at her PR agency), Mrs. Freedman, Phil Marshall and Patrick Sullivan (employees at her detective agency)

Her Moriarty: - (fate/luck, or perhaps herself?)


At the (young) age of 53, Agatha Raisin sells her PR agency and moves from London to to the “peaceful” village of Carsley in Cotswolds. Years of PR work for the rich and famous have given her all things she needs to succeed in a small community like Carsley: a sharp tongue, convenient morals, habit of poking nose in everybody’s affairs and most importantly, a quick wit and sharp mind. She will need those to survive the jungle called Carsley Ladies’ Society and solve the myriad murders that take place around her.

Because, unlike most mainline detectives, Agatha has not chosen a career as a detective (at least, not until late into the series). Her adventures starts when she tries to befriend the “natives” by participating in the Village Baking Competition. The attempt turns sour when the judge apparently dies after eating her quiche (which was bought from a famous London bakery), and her secret comes out to her shame. Now she has to clear her name regain her dignity, by finding out the real criminal.

That sets the tone for most of the series. This murder is followed by, among others, the murder of the handsome village curate (with whom Agatha has dinner on the same night), a beautician from nearby town (with whom Agatha had  appointment same day), and on a holiday, a tourist with whose group Agatha was visiting some places. In between solving these murders, she competes with other members of Carsley Ladies’ society for affection of various bachelors in village (including her new neighbour James Lacey), and tries to win a gardening competition by hiring  professional landscapers (and messes it up when Roy puts wrong labels on wrong plants).

It is easy to see that Agatha is not exactly the most friendliest of persons. Her core circle mainly includes Mrs. Bloxby, the village vicar’s wife, who indulges Agatha’s antiques and provides her a shoulder to cry on; Roy Silver, who is a co-worker from her PR Agent era, but continues as a friend (perhaps the only one from that time period). Bill Wong is the village police officer, who is never sure whether to arrest Agatha for her meddling (he is mostly pretty sure she is not The Murderer) as a police officer, or to help her as a friend.

James Lacey needs a separate paragraph of his own. He comes in Agatha’s life as a neighbour (and the prize she fights hard for) and lives on as a foil and target for her wit, her mostly unwilling partner in crime-fighting, a stolid companion and a possible life partner.

All in all, the series is full of sharp wit, even sharper dialogs, mostly harmless criminals, who somehow end up threatening Agatha’s vanity more than her life, and extremely enjoyable narratives. And if you don’t like to read, then BBC has conveniently dramatised it on Radio 4. Go for it…


- The Great Eagle Has Spoken


P.S. The rest in “Detectives” series


Princess Stefania said...

Sounds interesting. Though I can't for the life of me visualize Miss Marple with an attitude. :P

Amey said...

My point exactly... or rather, half a point. Are there so less (famous) women detectives that any one is directly compared to Miss Marple?

That said, do check these out. Quite fun.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

ever read alexander mccall about Mme Precious Ramotswe Bostwanas number 1 ladies detective?

whole bunch of them - take a look sometime

Amey said...

@Cynic: Haven't read them, but have heard some. Again, thanks to BBC 4 - Ladies of Mystery :D

Got any more suggestions for the series?

Cynic in Wonderland said...

nancy drew? :D

Cynic in Wonderland said...

classics - cant think of any offhand. but the popcrap variety which is dished out has many.

Amey said...

@Cynic: Nancy Drew, yes. And did you forget Enid Blyton's? :D