Agatha Raisin has retreated to a rented cottage in the Norfolk village of Fryfam to lick her wounds after another disappointment in love. She finds the cottage tiresomely old-fashioned with no central heating or microwave, and is exasperated that the village pub does not serve meals. She is bothered by strange dancing lights at the bottom of the garden which disappear when she tries to track them down. Discovering that the locals attribute the lights to fairies only increases her impatience with the place.
Harriet, Amy, Polly and Carrie of the Women's Group bring around cake and wine to welcome her. When Polly guesses she is escaping a failed love affair, prickly Agatha insists that she has only come to Fryfam to write a book - a detective story. Put on the spot, she quickly invents a title - Death at the Manor - and a baronet detective. When they leave she decides to give writing a whirl and embarks on a few chapters.
Over tea at the manor house she meets the nouveau-riche owners Tolly and Lucy. Tolly, wanting to be a country gentleman, has joined the hunt and acquired a coat of arms, but Lucy, knowing they will never fit in, wants to return to London. She also tells Agatha she is worried Tolly is having an affair. A valuable painting is stolen from the manor, and then Tolly is murdered. The police show great interest in Agatha's unfinished novel, which has some uncanny similarities to the crimes. Agatha and her visitor Sir Charles Fraith decide this is a good enough reason to do some investigating of their own.
This report prepared by Maureen Evans