I mentioned in the October Treasures in My Closet post that there are numerous mysteries coming out Oct. 7. In fact, one person asked me what makes Oct. 7 so special. I have no idea. But, Minotaur Books is getting a jump on the date with a "Win It Before You Can Buy It" giveaway. I have five galleys of G.M. Malliet's new Max Tudor mystery, A Demon Summer, to give away. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read "Win A Demon Summer." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. and Canada only, please. The contest will end next Thursday, Sept. 25 at 6 PM CT. The publisher will send the galleys. (I told you I had some terrific October giveaways planned.)
Saying that, A Demon Summer is not an easy book to review. I'm a big fan of G.M. Malliet's traditional mysteries. And, I love Max Tudor, the MI5 agent turned Anglican vicar. The villagers in the small English village of Nether Monkslip are charming, hardworking, idiosyncratic characters. Max's ongoing relationship with Awena Owen, the owner of Goddessspell, is fun to watch. And, it's now gone too far for Max to keep it a secret from the bishop. "Max's bishop had so far been spared the news that his most charismatic priest was in a now permanent relationship with the village's only neo-pagan."
But, Max's bishop has a job for him that takes him away from Awena and Nether Monkslip. The 15th Earl of Lislelvet was poisoned when he ate a fruitcake. He survived, but now he's pointing his finger at the nuns at Monkbury Abbey where someone gave him a gift of the homemade fruitcake. Bishop St. Stephen sends Max to investigate the nunnery for two reasons. Find out who tried to poison the Earl of Lislelvet, and investigate the financial shenanigans. There is money missing, and the Earl along with some wealthy Americans are complaining. When Max arrives, he finds an unusual group of people in retreat at the Abbey. And, a murder within a few days of Max's arrival leaves everyone as suspects, including the nuns. It's up to Max, along with his friend DCI Cotton, to find a killer, and, hopefully, save the reputation of Monkbury Abbey.
It's my commentary that gets complicated about this book, so I hope fans of the series pick up the book when it's available, or enter the giveaway, and let me know what you think. The final scene in the book was splendid, with Max back in the village. But, the first half of A Demon Summer dragged for me. Max was stuck in the Abbey, learning what each nun did. Even after finishing the book, I felt that information was unnecessary, to the extent it was written. And, unfortunately, I felt as if the book was too reminiscent of Louise Penny's story of a cloistered monastery, The Beautiful Mystery. Malliet even quotes the same poet/songwriter, Leonard Cohen, along with some of the same verses Penny uses. "Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering", and talks about "how the light gets in". She does mention that Max thought there was a book by that name. This bothers me, perhaps more than it should. But, I recently led the online discussion for How the Light Gets In, and I've read, and sometimes reread all of Penny's books.
And, I do hope everyone reads G.M. Malliet's comment on this blog. I totally understand what she is saying. I know how authors can seem to write similar books because an idea strikes them at the same time. I've written back, and told her she's welcome to do a guest post at any time. She may be too busy right now, with the release of A Demon Summer coming up. But, she's always welcome.
Malliet's Max Tudor unravels the mystery in a brilliant fashion. It's the second half of the book that is interesting, but the relationships are convoluted, to say the least. And, as I said, the final scene in the book was beautiful.
So, my recommendation for A Demon Summer? Read the book, and tell me what you thought.
G.M. Malliet's website is GMMalliet.com
A Demon Summer by G.M. Malliet. Minotaur Books. 2014. ISBN 9781250021410 (hardcover), 320p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book so I could review it, and host a giveaway.