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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Review - Wicked Autumn

It is time to give thanks and among many of the blessings in my life, I am thankful for all the readers who find this blog of service. 

My wonderful neighbor Ken is reviewing another book for us.  As soon as I read "former MI5 agent turned Anglican priest" for the sleuth by G. M. Malliet I suspected this would be a great mystery, so I asked Ken to read and review it.  A nice tie in to this novel is the review I did of the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. (click here.) Let's see if debut book in a new series meets the promise suggested by the description of the sleuth.

Author:  G. M. Malliet  

Copyright:  2011; Minotaur Books; 297 pages

Series:  #1 in the Max Tudor mysteries 

Sensuality:  Mild Violence  

Mystery sub-genre:  English cozy mystery, Amateur Sleuth  

Main Character:  Max Tudor, Anglican priest and former MI5 agent  

Setting:  Modern Day, Nether Monkslip, a Southern English village

Obtained book through:  Publisher for an honest review

Nether Monkslip is described as the traditional, quaint, and idyllic English village.  Yet now it is inhabited by modernistic owners of cottage industries who practice yoga, raise sheep for knitting wool, are chefs, artists, and New Agers.  They even utilize the internet for marketing. 

A moving and organizing force in this contemporary community is the Women’s Institute headed by the formidable, controlling, and unpopular Wanda Batton-Smythe.  With her patrician attitude, this curmudgeon upset, intimidated, or irritated most of the citizenry.  The preparations for the upcoming annual and very important celebration, the Harvest Fayre, only served to magnify these traits.  Then Wanda’s sudden death throws a monkey wrench into the shindig.  It seems she died from a severe allergic reaction by eating a cookie containing peanuts; something everybody knew she was fatally allergic to.

Max Tudor is unmarried and a former “Spook” for MI5 now turned Anglican priest.  In Nether Monkslip he’s found a new home, a new vocation, new friends, and some peace for his mind, body, and soul.  The village is a welcome respite from his dangerous and discordant past.  Based upon his previous knowledge and skills, Max begins to question the supposed accidental death of Wanda.  Apparently the high-handed Wanda was just asking for it-and she got it!  So who spiked the cookie?  Practically every villager is suspect, and they definitely had motive and opportunity.  He enters into the investigation by assisting the experienced and competent Detective Chief Inspector Cotton.  It will take their combined abilities to expose the killer or killers.

The investigation brings twists and turns and a few curve balls.  Max faces the difficulty of providing spiritual succor to his flock while suspecting them of murder.  Is there a single perpetrator or a conspiracy?  Will there be a surprise resolution to this investigation?

I must, once again, thank Ariel for providing me the opportunity of expanding my exposure to cozy mysteries, in this case an English cozy.  G.M. Malliet is well known in the world of mystery writers. She is a winner of the Agatha Award for her Death of a Cozy Writer.  She has a graduate degree from the University of Cambridge which was the setting for her other series, the St. Just mysteries.

In this story, she has provided us with a most enjoyable read.  I will go so far as to use a descriptive term atypical of me- delightful.  It was delightful to read this book.  Ms. Malliet’s words painted a colorful tapestry of characterizations of the people and the village.  All of the players were well developed in their personalities and mannerisms.  The book is laced with humor through satire, wit, and tongue-in-cheek descriptions and vocabulary.  The reader’s interest is maintained throughout the entire book.  I am looking forward to the next book in the Max Tudor series.

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes - 
Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes Recipe
For your holiday meal


4 1/4 pounds russet potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne to taste
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup milk
1 egg yolk

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