Agatha Raisin Is Great On TV: Why The Fuck Do The Books Suck?

agath raisin

I’d not heard of Agatha Raisin before it was televised, and I was keen to find out more about this modern version of what appeared to be Golden Age crime plots. When the TV series came out I found myself enjoying it immensely: Matthew Horne as her former assistant turned best friend is a particular pleasure.

So a few weeks ago, when I spotted some of the books in the local Oxfam, I was keen to check them out and see if they were as good. I was expecting a cross between Miss Marple and Kerry Greenwood’s amazing Phryne Fisher.

They’re really not.

I was completely taken aback by how god-awful the books were. I’ve tried a few of them, and I’ve been completely unable to get through them. I’m not usually willing to give up on a book, but these are so boring and poorly written that I can’t get through them.

The problem is, they’re just not very engaging. The Agatha Raisin of the books is a dry, dull old spinster and a complete sad act; the Agatha Raisin of the TV series is a vivacious, charming and hilarious character. The peripheral characters in the TV adaptation are fully rounded characters with personalities; in the books there are so many with so few lines each that they are just there to drive the plot forward.

Setting-wise, author M.C. Beaton a.k.a. Marion Chesney does very little beyond tawdry stereotypes of village life, making her version of Carsley boring and uninspiring, whereas on TV it comes to life as an additional character.

There’s a ton of these books, but unlike some prolific writers such as Stephen King or Peter James, these books have been written in a rush to a poorly constructed formula.

The initial murders often happen mere pages into the books, meaning the reader hasn’t had time to know or care about the premise or character. Also, information is dumped at random into the novels in a very haphazard way, for example when a client, in the middle of an unrelated conversation, asks Agatha in Agatha Raisin And The Blood Of An Englishman, if she has a license for her detection agency, all so the author can drop in the information that the laws have now changed and, as such, she now needs one.

The protagonist herself is a very strange character; she’s not even a very good detective. Whilst many of the world’s greatest fictional detectives have been mavericks with unusual methods, Agatha Raisin is downright rude, and often scares off witnesses or suspects, and has to send her associates to interview them because she’s been so nasty to them that they won’t speak to her anymore.

These ‘associates’, who either work at her detective agency or are merely nosy friends of the protagonists, are one-dimensional characters with dull dialogue who are defined by their appearances and relationships to Agatha. For example, one of the members of the detection agency is described almost exclusively as ‘the pretty assistant’ and not allowed to go on assignments where there are men that Agatha fancies. These tawdry stereotypes of women in positions of power and the petty jealousies that none of them ever really have are yet another example of how these truly dreadful books let the reader down and are completely unrealistic.

Much like the Grantchester stories, I was disappointed with reading the book version of a TV show I’ve been enjoying for some months now. Whilst often the TV show is worse than the books, owing to the dumbing down of plots, specifically mysteries, for a watching audience, in this case the books are poorly created while the formula translates well to the screen.

In all, if you want to read something great that’s a little formulaic and what might be considered easy reading, go for something better than this. You deserve it.

4 thoughts on “Agatha Raisin Is Great On TV: Why The Fuck Do The Books Suck?

  1. Pingback: M.C. Beaton Obituary – The Dorset Book Detective

  2. Pingback: 5 Crime Fiction Series I Think Are Overrated And What You Should Read Instead – The Dorset Book Detective

  3. Heath

    Felt the complete opposite. Loved the audio books narrated by Penelope Keith. WHY did they not follow the books when making the tv series. The tv series was so weak in comparison to the books. The dialect, particularly Roy’s, was so predictable and the jokes and innuendo just fell flat. Such a disappointment. The characters in the books have a real depth that really dosent come through in the tv series, even though they are played by good actors. Such a shame.

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    1. We all disagree- I personally couldn’t stand the books, but I loved the show! Some of the author’s other books are great though in my opinion. I’ve not heard the audiobooks but I do love Penelope Keith I’ll have to check them out! 😀

      Like

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