Sunday, January 22, 2012

G. M. Malliet writes a murder mystery set in an English country village.

I read about this novel and thought it might be fun.

Wicked Autumn

With Wicked Autumn (320 pages, Minotaur, $23.99), G. M. Malliet starts a new detective series featuring Max Tudor, a former MI5 agent, who now works as the local Anglican priest in the tiny village of Nether Monkslip.

This series will allow G. M. Malliet to paint the richness (and nastiness) of English village life, and to give her handsome and single detective a series of country lasses to intrigue and challenge him.

In this novel, Max almost meets his match in the form of a fashionable and very beautiful young woman who is a suspect in the murder of a local fund-raising demon who was also a loudmouth and a bossy community leader, Wanda Batton-Smythe.

The death, which took place at the annual Harvest Fayre, which the victim took the lead in organizing, looks like it might have been an accident. Wanda succumbed as a result of her allergy to peanuts. Max has and the police have a hard time figuring out how Wanda could have been forced to ingest peanuts, or peanut cookies, but that’s what certainly seems to have happened.

The investigation takes us in and around an assortment of cottages and gives us a close look at several different members of the village community. There is the other-worldly but very intelligent owner of a new-age herbal store; the eccentric writer, who is always flogging his latest publication; and the eccentric owner of the local bookstore.

All these places are developed amusingly, and the characters take their places in village life with aplomb. If there is something a little stagey about the whole procedure—the place seems just too cute for its own good—Malliet gets into the deep unhappiness and frustration of many of the community members in order to reassure us that this is not a National Trust fantasy.

I think we can look forward to more Max Tudor novels with pleasure.

G. M. Malliet

Wicked Autumn is available at Powell's, Vroman's and Amazon.

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