Marion Chesney, who in midlife began writing novels and produced more than 150, including mystery series written under the pseudonym M.C. Beaton that featured the endearing crime solvers Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth, died on Dec. 31 at a hospital in
Gloucester, in western England. She was 83.
The St. Martin’s Publishing Group, whose Minotaur Books published her Agatha Raisin series, announced the death. No cause was given.
Ms. Chesney held an assortment of jobs, including several in journalism, before publishing her first novel in 1978. She wrote romances before turning to mysteries in 1985 with “Death of a Gossip,” the first of more than 30 Hamish Macbeth stories.
A later novel described Hamish, the constable in the fictional village of Lochdubh in the Scottish Highlands, as “tall and gangly and lanky and unambitious,” yet he had a shrewdness that, book after book, enabled him to crack cases. A BBC television
series based on the books, with Robert Carlyle as the constable, ran in Britain from 1995 to 1997.
In 1992, again writing as M.C. Beaton, Ms. Chesney introduced a very different sort of crime solver: Agatha Raisin, a London publicist who retires to Carsely, a fictional village in the Cotswold region of England, where Ms. Chesney herself had recently
moved after living in the Scottish Highlands since the mid-1980s. Agatha isn’t a detective, but, like Jessica Fletcher of “Murder, She Wrote,” she is better at deducing whodunit than the paid professionals are.
In a 2006 interview with Booklist, Ms. Chesney explained that her editor had suggested she try a mystery set in the Cotswolds, and her son inadvertently gave her the hook.
“My son’s housemaster was holding a sale for the Vietnamese boat people,” she said. “He asked me for ‘some of my splendid home baking.’ I didn’t want to let my son down by saying I couldn’t bake, so I bought a couple of quiche and put my
own wrappings on them. That was the background to the plot of ‘The Quiche of Death.’”
In that book, the first in the Agatha Raisin series, Agatha tries to pass a quiche off as her own homemade entry in a quiche-baking contest, and the judge ends up poisoned...