Agatha Raisin
Vol 2 - The Potted Gardener & The Walkers of Dembley

Author: M.C. Beaton
Starring: Penelope Keith, Malcolm Sinclair, Liza Sadovy and Ben Crowe
BBC Audio
RRP: 12.99
ISBN: 978 1 4056 8780 5
Available 05 November 2007

Penelope Keith stars as Agatha Raisin, the Columbo of the Cotswolds, in two full-cast BBC Radio 4 Dramas based on the best selling books by M.C. Beaton...

The Potted Gardener & The Walkers of Dembley is the second volume of Agatha Raisin audio plays to be released through BBC Audio. Both stories feature Penelope Keith as the curmudgeonous Agatha Raisin - a middle-aged woman who has retired from the cut-throat world of PR and moved from London to the sleepy village of Carsely. With too much spare time on her hands, she also discovers that she has a knack for amateur detective work.

The two plays on this double CD collection were originally broadcast on Radio 4 in June 2004 (both split into two half-hour parts).

The Potted Gardener: With the run up to the annual garden festival the village or Carsely is gripped with enthusiasm for water features and mulch. But when someone seems to be going around destroying peoples' gardens, Agatha is determined to dig deep and root out the wrongdoer. But before she can track down the vandal, one of the residents of Carsely is found murdered. Agatha makes it her business to find out who killed her former horticultural rival.

While this story builds incredibly well the conclusion is a little rushed. The murderer gives themselves up a little too quickly, which is a shame. Although, I suppose you could argue that as they then immediately attempt to commit suicide, confessing was something that they had planned to do anyway, and that murder was something that they just couldn't live with.

The Walkers of Dembley: Keen to get closer to nature, Agatha joins James Lacey's walking group. After witnessing a stand off between some ramblers and a groundskeeper, Agatha and James are subsequently hired to investigate the murder of a militant rambler. They go undercover as a married couple in order to stay in Dembley and see if the locals know anything.

I am probably the world's worst amateur sleuth, but I had my suspicions about something fishy going on even before the murder. And, once the murder had been committed, I correctly guessed the murderer.

There were also a few lines that had me reaching for a sick bag. When Sir Charles informs someone that he will let them into his private area I nearly lost my lunch... But this is intentionally sleazy and corny and does the trick in making you think Sir Charles is a bit of a slime ball

The synopsis for both stories, that appear on the back of the CD case, seems to have been written by someone who hasn't even listened to the plays. The murder victim in the first tale wasn't found "hanging from her conservatory roof" and in the second play Agatha didn't join the walking group to get closer to James Lacey.

Another problem is that nowhere on this CD does it let the potential purchaser know that this is Volume 2 in the series. We received this and Volume 1 at the same time to review and by pure chance I listened to this volume first. Volume 1 explains why Agatha is a relative outsider to the village (it starts with her retirement in London) and concerns the mysterious death of her neighbour. Listening to the events out of sequence spoils the overall enjoyment of the stories. As I listened to this CD first, it was pretty obvious who had killed Agatha's neighbour in the first episode on Volume 1. As I already knew that her neighbour was James Lacey, and he doesn't appear on the first episode, it was safe to assume that the murdered man's wife killed him - allowing the house to be put on the market. Okay, she could have moved away to start afresh because the house had too many memories, but you soon learn that she's not the sort of woman to let something like that bother her.

Apart from those minor quibbles, and the fact that the main character is obviously called Agatha in an attempt to fool the book buying public into thinking - at a quick glance - that this is an Agatha Christie crime series, this is an enjoyable collection of tales that comes to life incredibly well thanks due to the impressive vocal talents of Penelope Keith and Malcolm Sinclair.

Darren Rea

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