The Agatha Raisin series is a popular collection of light-hearted and humorous mystery novels involving the titular middle-aged detective as she solves murders and mysteries in the cozy English Cotswolds.
Each book presents a new case for the intrepid fictional detective to solve, with Agatha Raisin even setting up her own detective agency some way into the series.
The series is written by M.C. Beaton, which is a pseudonym for Marion Chesney, a Scottish writer who has now sadly passed away.
The Agatha Raisin mysteries have been enormously popular, which is why there are 36 and counting novels in the series alone.
The series has been adapted twice, once as a radio program and then again as a popular television series.
With so many books in the Agatha Raisin series, it can be difficult for new readers to know where to start and know what the best order in which to read them is.
Thankfully, we’ve got all the answers you need! In our handy article below, we’ve got a complete guide to all 36 Agatha Raisin books in order.
About Agatha Raisin
Agatha Raisin is the fictional detective at the heart of M.C. Beaton’s eponymous series.
Agatha is middle-aged, being 53 in the first book, and she’s lived plenty of life before she becomes a detective.
A public-relations agent in London, Agatha becomes frustrated and takes an early retirement by selling her public-relations firm and moving out to the cozy Cotswolds.
It’s a far cry from the stressful city of London, instead filled with dreamy meadows, small villages, and rolling hills.
However, it’s not quite as picturesque and sweet as you might expect, because Agatha becomes a detective and spends her “retirement” solving a variety of murders that happen in the area.
Some other characters, such as the police or acquaintances of Agatha, believe that she solves the crimes through sheer luck or accident, but the important thing is that Agatha always closes the case.
Agatha Raisin Books In Order
When it comes to the Agatha Raisin series, the best way for first-time readers is to enjoy the series in the order in which they were published.
However, you could always deviate slightly by reading them in their chronological order, tracing the story in the order of time that they take place in.
This order is admittedly almost identical to the publishing order, although there are two changes: two short stories, “Christmas Crumble” and “Agatha’s First Case”, are now placed at the very start.
That’s because these short mysteries showcase the earliest days of Angela’s detective career, even though they were written much later in the series.
With that being said, reading these stories first doesn’t add much to the experience, and we’d recommend that you instead read the series in the order of its release – especially since you’ll then be familiar with Agatha Raisin’s character by the time you get to the prequel adventures.
This is the very first Agatha Raisin book to be released, and it introduces readers to the middle-aged detective who would continue to enthrall audiences for 3 decades.
Frustrated with her London PR firm, Agatha Raisin takes early retirement and moves to the small village of Carsley in the Cotswolds.
However, she soon finds herself bored, so decides to enter a baking competition.
In an unexpected twist, the judge dies upon eating her quiche, which turns out to be poisoned. The thing is, though, Agatha can’t bake!
She was cheating and bought the quiche in London. So who killed the judge? And why?
- It’s the first Agatha Raisin book!
- The mystery is slightly predictable
The second mystery for Agatha Raisin, a newly minted freelance detective, begins when a handsome vet accidentally kills themselves when attending to Lord Penlebury’s horse.
Though the case seems open and shut, Agatha and her also-handsome neighbor James Lacey find it suspicious that the vet’s divorced wife doesn’t seem very upset…
- Great cast of characters.
- Agatha is occasionally annoying!
When Agatha’s handsome neighbor James Lacey falls for the beautiful Mary Fortune, it leaves Agatha feeling a little unwanted and inferior.
However, when Mary is soon found murdered in a creative, gardening-related way, Agatha takes the opportunity to start digging up dirt on the victim, unearthing village secrets about her.
However, Agatha has a secret of her own…
- The village has a great atmosphere.
- It’s a bit brief.
After some time away Agatha returns to the Cotswolds and soon finds herself engrossed in a new mystery.
A hiker has been found dead in a field, and she had no shortage of enemies in the form of wealthy landowners whose land she insisted on trekking across.
Agatha and James Lacey, her neighbor, and unrequited crush must solve the mystery.
- Plenty of humor.
- The mystery is predictable.
Agatha is getting married to James Lacey. However, the husband Agatha believed long dead, Jimmy, suddenly appears.
Agatha is furious and James ends the engagement, but the next day they’re shocked to find Jimmy murdered… Agatha and James are the prime suspects.
- A personal mystery
- Occasionally repetitive.
Agatha ventures to Cyprus to find her ex-fiance James, but their reunion is cut short when they witness an obnoxious tourist’s murder.
To the annoyance of James, Agatha must chase this fresh mystery while trying to keep her romance alive.
- A fresh change of setting
- Focuses too much on frustrated romance than mystery.
Agatha encounters a body in a Cotswold village’s beloved natural spring, and it turns out to be the Council chairman.
Interestingly, the victim was looking to vote against letting a water company tap into the spring, and this sends Agatha off on a fascinating mystery full of shady water politicians and other dodgy entrepreneurs.
- Totally entertaining.
- Agatha’s obsession with James can get tiring!
After a desperate visit to the hairdresser in a neighboring town, Agatha finds the charming Mr. John.
He romances her, but Agatha soon begins hearing that other villagers are afraid of the man. Is he a blackmailer?
When a murder happens at the salon, Agatha must race to find the true culprit.
- Vivid descriptions of the locations.
- Not enough character development.
After suffering bald patches in the last book, Agatha flees to coastal Wyckhadden so she can regrow her missing hair, with the help of a hair tonic from a local witch.
Though it works, the witch is soon found murdered, and Agatha finds herself in the company of strange villagers and a romantic police inspector.
- A fresh change of setting
- Less funny than other books
A fortune teller from a previous book tells Agatha that true love and destiny await in Norfolk, so the detective moves off to Fryfam village.
However, strange happenings like mysterious lights and little thefts start happening to the villagers as soon as she arrives, with people blaming fairies.
However, when a villager is killed, the suspicion lands on Agatha and her friend Sir Charles Fraith. Agatha rushes to clear their names…
- Another new setting.
- A little predictable.
Agatha is married to James Lacey at last. However, the couple starts fighting, and James suddenly vanishes.
The prime suspect, Agatha desperately searches for her husband, but his suspected mistress is soon found murdered – complicating matters.
- Marriage at last!
- Occasionally repetitive.
James Lacey has left Agatha for God, joining a monastery in France. Alone, a miserable Agatha takes a vacation, but it too ends in sorrow.
She returns to the Cotswolds to find a new murder investigation to lose herself in.
With the alleged suicide of a wedding gown-wearing woman, Agatha sets off to prove that things are not what they seem…
- An intriguing mystery.
- There are some dramatic contrivances.
Agatha is lonely and miserable. Thankfully, the arrival of the village’s new curate, Tristan Delon, brings some much-needed sunshine.
Handsome, he attracts plenty of female villagers, yet he takes a special shine to Agatha…
However, when the curate is found dead, Agatha must investigate with the help of her new neighbor.
- Agatha is more caring here.
- Not always focused on the murder mystery.
Agatha returns from London to find a new handsome neighbor, Paul. He’s heard about her investigations and offers to help, find a client with a haunted house.
Agatha thinks it’s more than the supernatural, and when the client winds up dead, her suspicions of a deeper mystery are confirmed…
- A new neighbor character to enjoy.
- Some filler in the plot.
Agatha has set up her own detective agency but finds a succession of dull cases.
However, a wealthy divorcée soon brings them an interesting death threat, and Agatha sets off to investigate.
Reuniting with her old friend Sir Charles Faith, Agatha bumbles and flirts her way through another mystery, desperate to find the culprit…
- A fun blend of mystery and personal life problems
- Overly complicated
After her husband suspects adultery, Agatha must investigate Mabel Smedley. However, she seems squeaky clean to Agatha.
However, just as she’s ditching the case, the husband is found poisoned, leaving the wife as the prime suspect.
- A twisty, fun mystery
- Too many characters – it can be confusing!
James Lacey has moved back to the Cotswolds, and he’s invited Agatha on holiday. She pictures something romantic, but the place is cold and soon the site of a murder.
Worse still, the victim was strangled with Agatha’s scarf. Agatha must clear her name before it’s too late…
- The return of James Lacey!
- A bit dark – too many murders.
With her cases all dull, Agatha is looking forward to a Christmas where she can try and rekindle things with James Lacey.
However, when a wealthy widow hires Agatha and then soon ends up dead, the detective finds herself obsessed with another mystery.
- A festive mystery.
- A little predictable.
A bored Agatha offers to help the vicar of a neighboring village with his fete.
However, when poisoned jam appears and two murders happen at the event, Agatha is left with a new mystery.
- Some feminist commentary.
- The series gets repetitive at times.
James Lacey is engaged to a beautiful young bride, and Agatha is trying to take her mind off it.
However, when the bride ends up dead on her wedding day, Agatha is the prime suspect.
Despite this, the bride’s mother surprisingly hires her to find the true culprit, plunging the detective into a new mystery…
- A nail-biting mystery!
- The plot doesn’t flow.
Christmas is canceled in the Cotswolds when a health and safety officer cracks down on Agatha’s village.
However, when the officer is found dead, Agatha is faced with dozens of potential suspects – everyone hated the man!
- A funny festive twist
- A little disjointed
When a wrapped festive spit pig actually turns out to be an unpopular policeman, Agatha feels compelled to investigate, racing the police and rival detectives.
- A very unique set-up
- The characters grow a little tiresome
Agatha is in love once more, this time with a gardener named George Marston.
However, when Marston is found dead, bitten by a poisonous snake, and buried in compost, Agatha and her detective crew rush to find out what’s really going on.
- A personal mystery
- The story loses steam at times
A short story and a prequel to the other Agatha Raisin books, this sees Agatha inviting elderly villagers to Christmas lunch.
However, when Agatha’s pudding kills one of the guests, she must sleuth her way out of the mess and prove her innocence.
- A bite-sized mystery
- You’ll be left wanting more!
A village newcomer named Gloria French develops a reputation for not returning borrowed items.
So, when she’s found poisoned, few villagers mourn the loss. Agatha must investigate, finding that the village is full of secrets…
- A total page-turner
- There are repetitive sections
Though she hates Christmas pantomimes, Agatha Raisin is sitting through the latest.
However, when one of the actors disappears through a trapdoor and dies, Agatha and her detective team must investigate.
- Plenty of humor and intrigue!
- Some readers found the ending inconclusive.
When Jill Davent, a therapist, moved into the sleepy village of Carsley, Agatha Raisin was immediately disapproving of her.
Her dislike only grew after a few bad encounters.
Finally, when Agatha finds out that Jill had hired a detective to investigate Agatha’s past, she confronts Jill and says “I could kill you!”
Poorly chosen words. A few days later, Jill is found dead, and Agatha is the prime suspect. Once again, Agatha must prove her innocence…
- Filled with recurring characters
- Not as exciting as other entries
Another short story prequel, this shows Agatha’s first detective case at age 26!
When her PR agency boss asks Agatha to tell Brian Devese that they’re to be arrested for allegedly murdering his wife, she does it with trepidation.
However, it impresses Brian, and he hires her to find out who really killed his beloved.
- Fascinating seeing Agatha’s first case.
- You’ll want more “young Agatha” adventures!
An uncaring and wealthy land developer wants to turn the community garden into housing, so it’s no surprise that the villagers don’t mind when the developer ends up dead a few weeks later.
However, Agatha must investigate the case and find out who’s responsible…
- A fast-paced mystery.
- Difficult to follow so many characters.
When a couple driving home from a dinner party happens upon a body hanging from a tree, the inhabitants of a neighboring village are shocked at who would kill the elderly Margaret Darby.
However, as Agatha investigates, she finds that this is a private village full of secrets.
- A refreshing change of location.
- It takes a while to get going
The Cotswolds village of Thirk Magna is preparing for a visit from a dashing Bishop, but Agatha is more interested in investigating the mysterious disappearance of his ex-fiancée years ago.
However, when bodies start piling up in the village, Agatha finds herself embroiled in even a larger mystery than she ever expected.
- One of the best entries in years.
- However, it’s disjointed at times.
After discovering a leg in a hedge, Agatha is employed to investigate a factory for industrial espionage.
However, when a body turns up at the factory, Agatha finds herself thrown into another mystery – and one that is directly putting her life at risk for once.
- Features a funny donkey character!
- This is unfortunately the last Agatha Raisin book fully written by M.C. Beaton
Written with the help of R.C. Green, this new Agatha Raisin mystery sees the marriage of Agatha’s old friend Charles Fraith.
However, Agatha is suspicious of the bride, and the bride soon ends up dead. Agatha unearths a web of potential suspects – will she find the culprit?
- Full of twists
- Too much description
When a local bowls club discovers a body in the grass, Agatha must investigate.
However, she also has personal struggles of her own, with her ex-husband wishing to rekindle their love.
- It has a fantastic ending.
- The mystery is a bit predictable.
Agatha’s friend Bill Wong is getting married, but Agatha and her assistant, Toni, encounter an unclothed man on the drive to the wedding.
He’s from a naturist group, and this leads Agatha and co. into a bizarre mystery of vanishing bodies, witchcraft, and fantasy games.
The new author has captured M.C. Beaton’s style
- Sometimes overly descriptive
When a body is found at the village fete with an arrow in his chest, the police declare it a tragic accident.
However, Agatha believes that murder is really at play here, a suggestion the Detective Chief surprisingly agrees with. With that being said, the Chief considers Agatha the prime aspect.
To clear her name, Agatha must dive into a world of gangsters and warring families to find the truth.
- The series isn’t losing steam at 36 entries!
- Agatha has had to clear her name plenty of times.
M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series is one of the most popular detective fiction series out there, and is still going strong after 30 years of mysteries!
While other detective fiction might be dark and moody, fans love the Agatha Raisin books for their “cozy murder” atmosphere, with the middle-aged female detective undertaking cases in the rolling hills and cute villages of England’s Cotswolds.
Every book has a different mystery, with plenty of new shady suspects for Agatha to bumble through, but the series also has plenty of recurring characters that fans love seeing again and again.
Agatha herself has plenty of different love interests over the series, but whether they’re interested in her is another matter!
Though M.C. Beaton sadly passed away in 2019, the series has been passed onto another writer who manages to capture the style of the Agatha Raisin mysteries perfectly, so the detective series will be able to continue for a while yet.
To read the Agatha Raisin series in the best order, follow our useful guide (for more M.C. Beaton books, check out her Hamish Macbeth series here)!
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s The Best Agatha Raisin Book?
Every fan has their own preference, but a lot of readers agree that “Murderous Marriage” is the best Agatha Raisin mystery.
It finally sees the (almost marriage) of Agatha and James Lacey, and also features a gripping personal mystery.