Published by Minotaur on October 7, 2014
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In A Demon Summer, someone has been trying to poison the 15th Earl of Lislelivet. Since Lord Lislelivet has a gift for making enemies, no one—particularly his wife—finds this too surprising. What is surprising is that the poison was discovered in a fruitcake made and sold by the Handmaids of St. Lucy of Monkbury Abbey. Max Tudor, vicar of Nether Monkslip and former MI5 agent, is asked to investigate. But just as Max comes to believe the poisoning was accidental, a body is discovered in the cloister well.
Good points –
I like Max. He’s a good guy with a true calling who doesn’t judge others. For a not necessarily “Christian” mystery, I think it’s better at presenting religious lessons than some of the preachier ones. He makes sense as a detective, too, since he’s former MI5. It’s reasonable that the bishop would send him to investigate.
The abbey is a good setting and the nuns are an interesting lot. Each has a past, but those don’t count anymore, since they’ve joined the sisters. The nuns are walking a fine line between being separate from the world and making money by selling their products and having guests stay.
Max’s relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, Awena, stays in the background. I was afraid it would dominate this one after the end of #3, but it didn’t. Awena’s a great character, very in touch with nature and the seasons, but I don’t necessarily like an overly complicated romance to intrude on a mystery.
The final scene was wonderful and touching.
Bad points –
It was a little too reminiscent of Louise Penny’s recent novels. First, the abbey setting is awfully close to the monastery in A Beautiful Mystery. Second, Cohen’s verse about how the light gets in is repeated often, which of course reminded me of Penny’s novel with that title.
The solution is just too complicated. The relationships are all screwy and parts hinge on an event 20 years in the past that barely gets a passing mention. It feels unfair; there’s no way the reader could have figured out what was going on. Between treasure hunts, revenge, dying confessions, there was just too much. And the scene where you gather everyone together to point out the killer was long.
I would have like this one so much more if the solution had been different or the lead up to it had been better.