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Cooking up mystery: PBS to launch ‘Agatha Raisin’ series with ‘Quiche of Death’ pilot

Author MC Beaton

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — M.C. Beaton has been hailed as the “Queen of Crime.”

It’s an honor she carries close to her heart.

Beaton is the mastermind behind the New York Times best-selling Agatha Raisin novels.

The novels have made the leap from page to screen with the series “Agatha Raisin.” The first season of the show will premiere at 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4, on New Mexico PBS.

The series follows Raisin, played by Ashley Jensen, a London PR whiz turned amateur sleuth who becomes entangled in mischief, mayhem and murder when she opts for early retirement in a village in the Cotswolds.

“Agatha Raisin” will begin airing on New Mexico PBS at 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4. The premiere episode will be 90 minutes. Afterward, the weekly programs will be 60 minutes.

In the feature-length pilot movie, “The Quiche of Death,” Raisin retires to a small village and is desperate to fit in.

She enters a local quiche-baking competition, only to find herself a suspect when her entry kills the judge.

To save her reputation, Raisin sets out to solve the murder, with the help of her former assistant, Roy, played by Mathew Horne, eager Constable Bill Wong, played by Matt McCooey; and her cleaner, Gemma, played by Katy Wix.

Along the way, Raisin discovers that she has a talent for crime solving, even if it means her new life in the country is not the quiet, idyllic existence she had imagined.

“When I write, I watch the video in my head and describe what I see,” Beaton says in an interview. “I never once imagined it being on television.”

Beaton says she had little say in the dramatization.

“I was told that anything I didn’t like, to tell them and they would change it,” she says. “They didn’t, but they were so nice to me, I barely noticed.”

Beaton has written dozens of novels since 1979, many of them under different pen names. Her real name is Marion Chesney.

Over the course of her career, she has received various accolades, and she remains true to her writing process.

“(It) has not changed over time except that I no longer smoke and I miss those cigarettes like hell. I drink black coffee, stare at the computer screen, swear, and then I get started,” she says. “The best part of the job of being a writer is being self-employed and being able to make my own working hours.”

And when it comes to cooking up the characters and stories, she says, ideas are everywhere.

“For example, at the hairdresser, under the dryers, women shout out the most intimate details of their lives,” she says. “So I thought up a blackmailing detective.”