Wicked Autumn (Max Tudor #1) by G. M. Malliet
G M Malliet, is an American author of mystery novels and short stories, who is best known as the author of award-winning crime novels, including a series starring Detective Chief Inspector St. Just and the Rev. Max Tudor mysteries, which take place in the fictional English town of Nether Monkslip, and feature a vicar who is a former MI5 agent.
Wicked Autumn was the first in the Max Tudor mysteries which now runs to seven books. Reading it was like taking a step back in time, because it was written in 2011 as the first in the series. I had already read Devil’s Breath, which was the sixth book and was published in 2017. So, I then delved into Wicked Autumn, to discover backstory as an MI5 agent and the trauma which led him to the verge of a nervous breakdown, a dramatic conversion to Christianity and a change of career to becoming a caring Church of England vicar in a small English village.
I was surprised to learn that G M Malliet lives and writes in the United States, because her English settings seem authentic (if slightly exaggerated) and are drawn in great detail. In Wicked Autumn she has created a diverse cast of village traders, craftspeople, gossips and active Women’s Institute members, among others. Her characters are believable and recognisable to anyone who has lived in a small, quite closed community.
This book kept my attention because almost everyone has a motive for the rather bizarre murder of a domineering (but well-meaning) village matron. Even the means of death is quite puzzling until close to the end, while the perpetrator (or is that perpetrators?) is not unveiled until very late, when Max rediscovers his sleuthing instincts developed over 15 years as a spy.
In style and content, Wicked Autumn falls somewhere between Father Brown and Grantchester. Malliet is a skilled writer with an intriguing sense of tongue-in-cheek humour and I am looking forward to reading more of her delicious crime fiction about Max Tudor and his chosen life in the village of Nether Monkslip.