by Paula Gail Benson
I grew up in a home where reading was encouraged. No book was off limits, although some with graphic battle photos were not placed in my hands. However, they remained on the shelf where I had access, if I wanted to look. If I had questions, I could ask my parents for an explanation.
Only twice did I make the decision not to read a book. The first time, I was in the eighth grade and learned the students in another class could only read To Kill a Mockingbird with their parents’ permission. Approval to read a book was a new concept for me and signaled that there must be reasons why books should not be read. It gave me the impression that there was something wrong with the novel. For years, that kept me from reading Harper Lee’s masterpiece. When I finally did in college, I was upset with myself for having delayed.
The second book I put off reading was M.C. Beaton’s The Quiche of Death. It had been the selection of a mystery book club prior to my joining. Several members I respected disliked the novel and made disparaging comments about it, so I decided not to read it.
Fast forward to the Agatha Raisin series being produced on Netflix. I was visiting a friend and suggested we give it a try. The stories completely surprised me. Agatha was an intriguing person, for her flaws as much as her initiative, and the plots, based on Beaton novels and shorts, had symmetry and logic.
I went to Barnes and Noble and found that The Quiche of Death had been reprinted to coincide with the program’s debut. It contained a forward by Beaton. Reading her background intrigued me. Here was a person who persisted to enter the business of writing and let no obstacle stop her from reaching her goals. She had published 25 Agatha Raisin books as well as another series about Hamish MacBeth.
The Quiche of Death was written in the 1990s. It opened with Agatha’s retirement from a business she built. I was surprised how much of Agatha’s backstory worked its way into the first chapter and wondered if it might be rejected if submitted today. However, by the end of the first chapter, the murder had occurred, and Agatha was poised to solve the mystery.Now, I’m delighting in reading the books in this series (as well as The Agatha Raisin Companion) and learning from Beaton’s story structure and character development. It’s a great way to start the new year!