If I had to pick my favorite genre, I would choose Mystery, and that’s been pretty consistent since I read my first Nancy Drew story. I read a large variety of books, from romance to self-help to picture books and most things in-between, but I inevitably return to mysteries. While I was commenting on Melissa’s Who? What? Where? post at My World…in words and pages the other day, I realized that my true love is even more narrow. I love mysteries set in small towns with they’re eccentric set of characters, preferably not small-town America rather somewhere I’m not familiar with, solved by a detective or at least someone who’s investigations make sense, like a reporter or doctor.

Wicked Autumn by G. M. Malliet falls into that niche. It’s set in the small English village of Nether Monkslip, which has a good variety of residents, from artists to yoga instuructors, writers and the typical busy-bodies. The vicar, Max Tudor, is our detective. I know that doesn’t at first fit with what prefer in a detective, but he’s a former MI5 agent who has found some peace in his church and his town, and is easily convinced by the police to help with the investigation. The dead woman is Wanda Batton-Smythe, a loud-spoken, over-bearing who leaves behind a devasted husband and estranged son. President of the Women’s Instutute, she has ruffled many feathers over the years, but it seems almost impossible that anyone could have been angry enough to kill her, especially in such a pre-meditated way.

Max is an attractive man who truly cares about his parishioners and appreciates where he is. This is the first in a series and we get a fair amount of his background, but for me it was a little too much. I want to know he was former MI5 and that some tragedy made him re-evaluate his life’s course, but I wish he hadn’t spent so much time ruminating over what exactly had happened. I like things parceled out a little more. I think some of the details could have been saved for a later book. If he was someone I was dating, it would have been too much information too soon.

The rest of the characters were a great mish-mash of folks to laugh at, to feel sympathy for, to suspect, to root for. It’s a small town and everyone knows everyone else, or at least thinks they do.

The plot, as you may have surmised, is not of paramount importance. I’m not sure why that is. You would think that since I do love mysteries and puzzles and whodunnits, the plot would be at the top of my list, but it’s not. A great plot is pointless if you don’t care about the characters, or are at least interested in their lives. Don’t get me wrong, the plot was okay. Max goes around talking to all the villagers, but he does manage to make some odd connections. Like a comment an old lady says reminds of a scene in the Bible, and another little tidbit makes him think about something he ran into back in his MI5 days, and these lead his thoughts down a path eventually ending at the murderer. And then there was the last minute witness who helped tie it all up.

I will say that the way the victim was killed was quite creative, at least I don’t think I’ve read this exact method before. (No, David, I’m not collecting ways of killing people. Okay, maybe I am, but I’m not planning on actually using any of them on a real person.)

It’s not a fast-paced, action-filled mystery and it’s not supposed to be. It’s calm and meandering, appropriate for the setting, but there’s always that underlying sense of menace, of wondering who here is not who they seem, who is lying.

I listened to this one audio and I enjoyed it in that format. My one complaint was that there were some odd pauses, making me wonder for a second if my player had run out of energy or my headphones come unplugged, but then it would go on. Maybe it was because it was orginally a CD recording transferred to an MP3, noticeable because of the several “This is the end of disc ________, the book continues on disc __________,” which was also a little annoying and not something I run in to often with the audiobooks I download from the library.

It was a good little mystery. Not outstanding, but solid.

3½ out of 5 stars

Category: Mystery & Detective

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Max Tudor #1
Published September 13, 2011 by Minotaur
8 hours, 10 minutes
Read by Michael Page

Book source: Library

Max Tudor Mystery Series

  1. Wicked Autumn
  2. A Fatal Winter (due out October 16, 2012)

This was my sixth read for R.I.P. VII, a reading event embracing the ghastly and ghostly, mysterious and grim. R.I.P. VII is hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.

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