G.M. Malliet's mysteries always take me back to the old-fashioned traditional mysteries set in small English villages. Pagan Spring, with the cast of characters listed in the front of the book, its slow pace, and the gradual reveal of the mystery through in-depth character studies and conversation, is a perfect homage to those old mysteries.
Max Tudor, the MI5 agent turned Anglican priest, is very happy with life in Nether Monkslip in the southwest of England. He's in love with Awena Owen who owns the village's New Age shop, but with her out of town, he's happy to accept a dinner invitation for a party of eight. However, it isn't a pleasant evening with some of the new residents of the town in attendance. One is a posturing, pompous actor who browbeats his wife. Max does enjoy the company of Gabby Crew, though, even though the hairdresser seems a little upset. And, Max takes a hard look at everyone at that dinner party when one of the partygoers ends up dead.
Malliet's books are quiet mysteries, as I said before, dependent on conversation and character studies. They do have touches of humor, as in the description of one woman. "She had assumed a recently vacated position in the role of Village Bossypants, and now reigned unchallenged." And, although Max Tudor is the main character, it's refreshing to see his sound relationship with Detective Chief Inspector Cotton. In fact, their friendship and discussions are some of the strongest parts of the book. The cast of characters is long, but Malliet does such a good job in delineating the characters that there is little reason to check the list after the story gets going.
As in all traditional mysteries, the normal life of the village is upset by the crime. Max Tudor brings special skills to the job of sleuth, his past history as an MI5 agent, and his understanding of the villagers through his work as vicar. Even his bishop understands that Max needs to help to set things right. "The things happening in Monkslip were like fault lines beneath the surface, biding their time and waiting silently to destroy. If there was any way to stop the damage, he intended to."
Looking for a quiet mystery, set in modern times but with a feeling of the past? Looking for an interesting sleuth? If you treasure the mysteries of the past, you might want to try one with that same atmosphere, G.M. Malliet's Pagan Spring.
G.M. Malliet's website is www.gmmalliet.com
Pagan Spring by G.M. Malliet. Minotaur. 2013. ISBN 9781250021403 (hardcover), 304p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.