Tuesday, October 30, 2012
A Fatal Winter by G.M. Malliet
Father Max Tudor has settled into a peaceful life in Nether Monkslip, disturbed occasionally when the women of St. Edwold's squabble over important issues such as the cat in the church at Christmastime. But, everyone in the village doesn't have such a calm life. When Lord Footrustle's family gathers at Chedrow Castle for the holidays, it's clear there is going to be trouble. Soon after Max meets Lord Footrustle's sister, Lady Baynard, on a train, he's called to the castle. His friend, DCI Cotton of the Monkslip-super-Mare police, wants to slip him into the hornet's next under the auspices of the church. One of the family members requested a priest after two bodies were found on the property. And, one body was definitely murdered.
No one who reads traditional mysteries will be surprised to find that only the people in the castle itself could have killed the victim. The plot and the unraveling of it are not surprising. However, Malliet is a master at character, atmosphere, and turn of phrase, all of which are striking in this story.
And, she definitely has a flair for describing Max Tudor. When Cotton invited Max to help with the case, Malliet says, Cotton had "An ace up his sleeve...a compassionate man with the heart of a vicar and the soul of a detective, was named Father Max Tudor." Tudor, a little leery about telling his bishop about this latest case realized, "His pastoral duties were starting to overlap with high crimes and misdemeanors."
It's easy to compare Tudor to other detectives, particularly Father Brown or Hercule Poirot. "But, different from both Father Brown and Poirot, Max was interested in both sin and crime. Which made him a potent, double-barreled investigative force." And, Tudor and Cotton make a powerful team. And, I find this wonderful. It's a combination of cop and priest, two men who truly care about the victims. It's an aspect of Malliet's traditional mysteries that I truly appreciate. The victim is not forgotten in these books. Both men find these crimes unspeakable because they care about the victims.
While Tudor spends most of the book at the atmospheric Chedrow Castle, the village scenes are just as beautifully revealed. Malliet's Nether Monkslip is a charming English Village with an intriguing cast of characters. If you're a fan of traditional mysteries, you'll welcome the chance to return to Tudor's home territory.
A Fatal Winter has few surprises for the avid mystery fan. However, anyone who loves the English village mystery, a locked room mystery, and a wonderful cast of villagers, will want to pick up the second book in the Max Tudor series.
G.M. Malliet's website is www.gmmalliet.com
A Fatal Winter by G.M.Malliet. St. Martin's Minotaur. 2012. ISBN 9780312647971 (hardcover), 364p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.