"There are certain things you want in a village mystery: a pretty setting, a tasteful murder, an appealing sleuth . . . Malliet delivers all that." —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times
Last year, Agatha Award-winning author G. M. Malliet charmed mystery lovers, cozy fans, and Agatha Christie devotees with Wicked Autumn, the first mystery featuring her captivating protagonist, Max Tudor, and the small English village of Nether Monkslip.
In AFatal Winter, Max—Anglican priest, former MI5 agent, and village heartthrob—investigates two deaths at Chedrow Castle. But his growing attraction to Awena Owen complicates his case, as does the recent arrival at Chedrow Castle of a raucous group of long-lost, greedy relatives, any one of whom has a motive for murder. With a cozy setting, intricate puzzles, and a handsome (non-celibate) priest doing the sleuthing, the books in this series are destined to become instant classics in the mystery world.
Award-winning author G.M. Malliet attended Oxford University and holds a graduate degree from the University of Cambridge. She now lives in the US.
She is represented by literary agent Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group, New York. Contact information for Mr. Gottlieb can be found at www.gmmalliet.com/contact.html, where you can also subscribe to her newsletter.
Follow her Amazon author page for book release updates.
I have so much love for this series. I love how Malliet moves the plot along and also weaves a few elements that foreshadow events in the future books. The Christmas season setting in the house party murder mystery was a nice touch. Max Tudor as an MI5 agent turned vicar, battles with himself over past demons, a devotion to truth seeking, love, and the expectations of his bishop.
The second mystery in the Max Tudor series is set before Christmas, whereby Max is dispensed to Chedrow Castle to help investigate two deaths and then later on a third. The setting is almost a closed room type of mystery as it is apparent due to the remote and somewhat fortress like setting preclude an outsider coming in to do these. When I started the previous book, Wicked Autumn, I couldn't help but think of the Father Brown series, even though this is set over 50 years later. Someone actually referenced Max Tudor as Father Brown, except Max is quite handsome and non-celibate. He is also attracted to Awena, the local proprietor of the village New Age shop, Goddessspell. This will has started the gossip tongues wagging and will undoubtedly provide fodder for the future installments. I love this village of Nether Monkslip and I feel like I already know the characters, as they are so real and well developed. This is one of those books that I wanted to hurry through but tried to hold back as I know this series is limited.
I really enjoyed the beginning of this book, but somewhere in the middle it started to drag quite a bit, to the point that I was frustrated by the time the murderer was revealed. I missed that it took place outside of Max's village and villagers, which I found so charming in the first book.
Also, while I do enjoy the detailed descriptions of the people and places, I grew really tired of being constantly reminded how handsome and beautiful and perfect both Max and Awena are, by every character they encounter and the narrator. Awena especially veers very close to Mary-Sue territory, with her purple eyes and smelling of "everything beautiful in the world" and being compared to a fairy-tale queen, goddess, or statue come to life. I suppose part of this is because that is how Max, being completely ga-ga over her, sees her, but I hope it's toned down in future novels. I can already tell there are interesting, human characters under all that, just give them a chance to shine on their own. Anyways, overall I'm looking forward to the next book.
As I began to read this second in the series I thought I believe I like this one better than the first, until I got to the middle of the book and feared I wouldn't even finish. Max is ok, not one of my favorite "detectives", but as he helps the police with their investigation of the murder I just found him annoying. Chedrow Castle itself is a wonderful setting for a murder (or two) but Lord Footrustle and family are despicable people and that part of the book dragged on interminably. I did persevere and finished reading- and happy I didn't give up on it for once Max solves the intricate murder mystery and returns to Nether Monkslip it improves greatly. My favorites in this series are actually the village people themselves, therefore I will read on. The Christmas party ending the book was perfect!
Sometimes there's nothing better than a good old fashioned British "cozy." In this case, there's more than a bit of tongue-in-cheek despite the setting in a village known as "Nether Monkslip." (Doesn't that make you want to visit? It did it for me.) Then there's the main character, Father Max Tudor, very handsome - even dashing? - former MI5, now an Anglican priest and vicar of St. Edwolt's. Father Max has become an unofficial investigator for the local inspector who is a terrier in his own way - he will "worry" any murderer out of hiding. This is a classic closed mystery. There's a houseful of people in for Christmas. Two elderly people- twins - who have lived together for years after widowhood and divorce are entertaining their assorted children and an ex spouse. Meanwhile, there is romance in the air. What I enjoy about these book is the "wit." You don't often see that anymore. GM Malliet has become one of my yearly "go to" writers. However, if you haven't read any of her books before, start at the beginning. It's worth it.
No doubt that G. M. Malliet is intelligent, well-educated, and with a wicked sense of humor, however I felt that her second Max Tudor mystery just dragged. It's never a good sign when I have to push myself to pick up the book and finish it, when neither the story nor, especially, the characters fully engage my attention or sympathies. As is often the case, the murder victim was not well-liked - a super wealthy earl who had been rapacious in his business practices and monumentally uncaring towards his family. His relatives, suspects all, were snobbish, greedy, selfish, and ludicrously shallow. Though given flamboyant characteristics more suitable to short TV crime dramas, they were, in fact, boring, tedious, and annoying. Max Tudor, the vicar, who stays at the castle after the murder to hunt for clues under the auspices of the real police investigator (a tenuous excuse for our 'detective' to be on the job), is really the only appealing character, as is his love interest Awena. The point of view is mostly Max's but suddenly we'll be in the police Inspector's head, or one of the suspects', or one of the women lusting after Max, which is jarring to the narrative and seems out of place. The puzzle of the mystery itself is a good one, but I did correctly guess a part of it, though the means came as a surprise. The central character of Max, a former MI5 operative turned Anglican priest, and a good-looking hottie that the author never misses an opportunity to remind us of, is not totally convincing. Thoughtful, yes; remorseful, yes; perceptive and well-intentioned, true; but I was left wondering over the depth of his 'calling.' Had he become a priest just to escape his past, allay his demons, and live a relatively quiet studious life where his actions would not bring death to an enemy or, inadvertently, a friend? Perhaps Max himself wonders, as I suppose all who serve in that capacity must from time to time. Has he sufficiently tamped down the instincts, honed through training, of an MI5 officer? Handy for solving mysteries, but it does rather get in the way of mundane parish duties and serving his congregation. Is he still, in a more innocent way, living a double life? It makes for an interesting contradiction in the character, which I'm sure Malliet will explore in further additions to the series, as well as the developing relationship with the new age Awena. I hope Malliet will develop the characters more, both the good and the bad. Her suspects, as in her last book, all seem irredeemably bad in a greedy self-serving way, and some are over-the-top caricatures made for a TV detective comedy/drama. They would be much more interesting if they showed a little more humanity or were more than set pieces. None were particularly convincing, even with the occasional head-hopping to reveal their thoughts. The English castle setting in a stark December, the lord murdered in his bed, the gothic hints of ghosts and madness, the Poirot-like expose at the end - all seemed a nod to the cozy genre, but not quite a contemporary spoof. It was as if Malliet could not quite decide if she was serious or not. Though inclined towards sarcasm, this is not quite a send-up, yet it doesn't have the weight or heft of a more serious or literary mystery as, say, a Louise Penny. In the end, I didn't really care.
My "in a nutshell" summary...Father Max...lives in a quaint village with an odd housekeeper, a cat and a dog, and a penchant for solving mysteries.
My thoughts after reading this book...
Thank goodness for the cast of characters because this was the kind of amazing English mystery that I love and yet have trouble keeping everyone's names correct. There is the very very rich Lord Footrustle and there is everyone else who is either related to him or was once married to him. There is the amazing estate where he lives sort of happily until he gets the idea to have everyone come and stay for the holidays. Ex wives and children and cousins pop in from all over. And...it doesn't take long for one or perhaps even two relatives to bite the dust. Of course there is a butler and his wife...the cook...and of course the butler finds the first very dead body. Now...enter Father Max...handsome ex spy priest...but the kind who can date and get married. He goes to the estate and eventually figures out who the bad guy/guys are.
Since this is a cozy mystery this is pretty much all that I can say...the plot, the characters, the setting...handsome Father Max...all must be covered by you, dear reader!
What I loved about this book...
OMG...Father Max and his dog Thea and Luther the cat...the housekeeper...the quaint village...loved it all. The way the story unwraps, all of the very English things, even the foods...are all such fun to read about.
What I did not love...
Most of Lord Footrustle's relatives...the relatives you just love to hate!
This was a yummy fun cozy English mystery...the second in this series. It's the kind of book that makes you savor every character and every plot twist and turn.
Despite its many inadequacies, I could actually see myself reading a couple more of this series. I found overall the story did work. What didn't I like? Well, if this priest is anything to go by, the Anglican church is in a great deal of trouble (and it is). The kind of God that Father Max was portrayed as believing in bears little resemblance to the Christian God, in my not so humble opinion. God seemed more as an opportunity for Max to spout off some applicable platitude to make everyone feel better. The descriptions of his falling for Awena were unbelievable - and describing Awena as being unaware of what she was doing. I have never met the woman who is as unaware of her beauty and effect on men as is Awena. The fact that Max is falling for her, given that she is a pagan, makes his being an Anglican priest even less believable. Why bother being a priest if God doesn't affect anything you do, say or believe? (In fact, I frequently ask this question more generally since I would rather spend my Sunday mornings lazing around in bed and then heading over to Starbucks for some coffee but I don't). And I simply cannot imagine what kind of cliched tripe he must deliver as his sermon - it certainly should not take more than about 30 minutes to prepare since, as the book says, the people want something uplifting. Speaking several times of his having to prepare sermons was a little unbelievable; but maybe making sure you don't insult anyone or do anything that does not leave everybody feeling perfectly wonderful is more difficult than I imagine. The picture of the perfect village at the end strained credulity also - everybody saying and doing everything exactly right even down to the local gossipmonger. It came off as forced and unnecessary.
The first novel in this mystery series by G.M. Malliet, Wicket Autumn, introduced readers to the former MI5 Agent turned Anglican Vicar Max Tudor who assists police with murder investigations. This second novel in the series, A Fatal Winter, draws him to the lavish setting of Chedrow Castle (outside of the Village of Nether Monkslip where he is asked by DCI Cotton to investigate the savage murder of the 75 year old Oscar, the 8th Earl of Foootrustle and seemingly natural death of his twin sister, Leticia, Countess of Gravening. While comforting and counseling the bereaved, Max must gather information and attempt to unravel the means, motives and method of the killing. Few of the characters seem to be remotely sympathetic and most display a fair amount of arrogance and insensitivity. After a prime suspect is found murdered the plot thickens.
This is a fairly complex murder and scheme, but the clues one would hope to be laid out in one form or another in the first two hundred pages (or so) are not disclosed until the solution is unveiled in Poirot style near the end of the book. This is not a particularly enjoyable read nor is it a "cozy" Christmas story, and the mystery itself is put aside with much attention to Max's growing love interest. I did not find this one to be as successful or enjoyable as the first novel in the Tudor series.
On the plus side, I like the main characters - Max, Awena, DCI Cotton and Sergeant Essex (when she's allowed to do anything) - and it was a decent plot, if a bit long in execution.
On the minus side, the book was probably 75 pages too long, the editing was sloppy with odd repetition, the timeline didn't feel right, the distance between Max's village and the castle seemed to vary, and I got annoyed by Americanisms in a book set in England. Also, names like "Footrustle" and "Pootle-Fitzbutton" actually don't exist outside the pages of PG Woodhouse - I couldn't tell if they were supposed to be serious or parodies. Plus, a little fact checking would have done wonders: British Rail hasn't existed since 1997 (its either Network Rail, or one of the individual companies nowadays); and speed limits are in miles per hour, not kilometres.
The plot and writing is good. The characters, except Max, are AWFUL. I almost didn't finish this audiobook. I kept thinking for the last three hours of the book that I didn't have to finish it.
This is an Agatha Christie style mystery with a snow-bound castle fille with murder suspects. Christie's books have a good amount of humor in them which might have offset the horribleness of the characters but this book doesn't. Also it dragged along to give the characters many chances to demonstrate their self-centeredness. In fact when all is revealed at the end, that part also drags along forever to further show how awful everyone is. It was very tedious.
I also had a problem with Father Max Tudor, our hero. He was critical of these awful characters and then critical of them being critical of each other. He came across as hypocritical especially since he was in a position to see these people dispassionately and understand why they were so awful. I'm thinking mostly of Lamorna - adopted as a baby by parents who then died young and then she's left to be raised by a woman who wouldn't allow her to feel a part of the family, who used her as an unpaid servant. Even though Lamorna had a difficult, mouselike personality certainly Father Max could have figured out a way to be kind to her.
I don't think I'll continue with this series. The next ones are not well-reviewed in Goodreads anyway.
Sometimes I come across a book that leaves me shrugging my shoulders with a kind of "So what?" feeling. This was one of those books.
There is an intriguing array of characters. The family dynamics gave the story both tension and humor.
The whodunit mystery allows readers to play detective along with the characters.
The pace is quite slow. Nothing much happens for the almost the first third of the book.
Part I, the first 30 or so pages, is an information dump. All the characters are introduced, along with their various problems and relation within the family. Too many unfamiliar characters all at once made for a sort of mind-numbing read. When those characters were finally each brought back into the story separately, I didn't remember anything about their introductions.
Some of the characters began to feel more like caricatures than real people. And there were relationships that didn't make sense to me. For instance, I wasn't clear on how or why Max, the Vicar, developed a love interest in a Pagan woman.
And, finally, while this book is supposed to be current, the atmosphere and detective work had a historical feel. I had to keep reminding myself this didn't take place a hundred years ago. I think, if it had been set in the late 1800s, it would have made more sense to me.
I really like Max Tudor. And I really like all the people in the village where he lives [even though they are a bunch of gossiping biddies who really aren't a bad sort, just bored]. And I really like Awena Owen and the relationship she has with Max and their willingness to try at it even though their theologies don't exactly mix and mesh.
THAT said - this book was....horrible. NOT the parts with Max and DCI Cotton and Awena and the villagers; those were enjoyable as always. BUT the people who are being investigated for a gruesome murder and a seemingly death of "natural causes" are TOTALLY and completely hideous and horrible and vile people. H O R R I B L E.
The story was good, in the sense of that the murder [when revealed] was unique and yet not really and some of the unimportant parts of the story was very interesting. But when having to interact with the main people who are being investigated were just H O R R I B L E. It made the rest of the story very difficult to enjoy. Its tough to like a book when none of the characters are redeemable and it truly matters not who is guilty because they are all just so terrible that you don't care if they all go to jail. Meh.
I will read the next one because I just love Max - I love his faith and his love of people and how he interacts with people. He is truly a really good man and a great character.
After the promise of the 1st book in this series, WICKED AUTUMN, I was disappointed in this installment. The author is skilled, and she's got some great ideas: the village of Nether Monkslip, the mystery du jour of each book, and the character of Max Tudor. But something is lost in translation from germinal idea to actual book. She head hops to a destructive degree, does far too much telling when it's convenient for her plot, and her characterization of her village characters—especially Max and his love interest Awena–is neither convincing nor organic. I don't buy Max's religious beliefs; they don't seem to fit him. And what was with the prolonged epilogue in this book? Sheesh. She could have structured it better than that. Still, I want to like this series, so if there is a third book, I will probably read it.
Max Tudor, MI-5 agent turned vicar in southwest England, returns in this sequel to Wicked Autumn. In this go-round, Oscar, Lord Footrustle, invites his estranged family -- children by various ex-wives, grasping ex-wife, nephews and others -- to join him at Chedrow Castle at Christmas time. This being a British cozy, one of his nearest and dearest of course ushers Lord Footrustle out of this world and into the next long before Christmas Eve. Before Father Tudor unravels the mystery, there will be more deaths and near-deaths.
Wicked Autumn, while enjoyable, at times flirted too closely with clichés and stock characters; here, with the exception of the singularly self-absorbed B-film actress Jocasta Jones, Lord Footrustle's eldest daughter, the characters will resonate with readers, and the resolution will come as a surprise. Readers who enjoy G.M. Malliet's Detective Chief Inspector St. Just mystery series are likely to find that they enjoy the vicar of Nether Monkslip even more.
Well-written but overly wordy. It reminds me of the 19th century writers like Dickens who were paid by the word. Most of the characters are unlikeable -- mean-spirited, selfish, and shallow. And those are the church members. The exceptions are a neopagan love interest of the vicar and Max Tudor himself (who says he believes in karma). She goes on for two pages about the Druids and how they were "not so different from contemplative monks". The difference is Christ, not karma. Strange to me that an author who seems to view Christians as not as enlightened or kind as the neopagans would choose the priesthood for the main character's career. Also, for a cozy mystery it had some bad language. The f word and gd, and that was by a so-called Christian character. I give it three stars because it is well written and the mystery plot is good.
Well, a bit of a slow start, not just in introducing all the new characters, but the whole part early on where Max and Awena go on a date and talk about religions and history and enjoy the wine and stars and coo about karma and I’m sure it was great for them, but have you have ever watched two people on a date? Unless a fight breaks out and dinner rolls start getting tossed, that kind of shoompiness is boring in the extreme to observe.
Anyway, an extended family of aristocrats, none of whom have figured out how to join the 20th century, let alone the 21st, are gathered together by the old patriarch at the family castle for the holidays. They all, of course, hate each other, and are all as unlikable as only the old school British upper crust can be as they grimly hang on to a time already gone by.
Two family members turn up dead on the same day – one definitely murdered, the other, a giant question mark of if it was old age or poison or maybe some sort of shock – and the police question the rest of the family, digging up the whole sordid family history, as they try to figure out who, in this extremely remote and well-fortified castle, did it.
And here is the biggest problem – the repetition. The interviews with each family member leads to a lot of the same information being repeated, since the characters had all already been introduced and many of the same facts are repeated over and over – charming eccentricities at first, but quickly growing stale after being told about them for the third or fourth time.
A great cast of oddballs, but too much wheel spinning – the action needed to be speeded up to give this eccentric cast more to do than just sit around and repeat themselves.
It is coming up to the season of goodwill when Max Tudor, Anglican Priest and former MI5 agent becomes involved in investigating the murder of Oscar, Lord Footrustle. He is invited to stay at Oscar's castle home where all the relatives are gathered ready to celebrate Christmas.
No one seems to know why Oscar had invited everyone for Christmas since he didn't really get on with most of them. His sister, Leticia, Lady Banyard was also found dead at about the same time as Oscar's murder is discovered. Was she also murdered? Or did she die from the shock of hearing of his death?
Max is going to have his work cut out to get to the bottom of the mystery before the murderer strikes again. There are tensions and disagreements to explore and plenty of motives for almost anyone to have done the deed especially as Oscar was extremely wealthy.
This books seems quite slow at times but it is worth persevering as the descriptions and the characters are very good indeed with plenty of amusing one liners. I like Max Tudor as a character and the way he conducts his investigations. Village and castle life are depicted with a sure hand and I felt as though I knew all the people involved in the story by the time I'd finished the book.
I'm sort of unclear on the concept of how an Anglican vicar could drop out of his congregation's life long enough to move to a local castle and solve a double murder or why the police would actually encourage it or how it would work for said vicar to fall for a new age shopkeeper (how do you explain that to your bishop?). And finally, how are we going to keep Max Tudor in murders enough to keep the series going when he lives in a teeny-tiny and quite isolated village where the one murder in the inaugural book of the series seemed like one murder too many for that sleepy place. In this volume we take the former MI5 agent out of Nether Monk Slip and down the road to the local Lord's house where there were plenty of options on suspects and it was hard to put any of them into the clear until close to the end.
Max Tudor is a little bit less passive in the resolving of the puzzle than in the first book. Nevertheless the recurring characters are still a bit flat and/or cliché. There's a moment where it is said very seriously that homeopathy is potent, even dangerous, and I found this so silly and out of place! Also was annoyed by the love interest shoehorning.
Es el primer libro de investigación de asesinato que leo desde hace años. Me sorprendió encontrar la trama al inicio y casi al final. En medio, mucho chismecito, muchas escenas lindas y bien escritas que no dan la impresión de avanzar la historia. Ya al final, todo es tan claro que me confirma que eso de la investigación no es lo mío.
A bit of a drag and only finished it because it was the only audio book I had downloaded!
This has the potential to be a good series but there is too much unnecessary detail that slows the pace to a crawl and breaks up any momentum. There is really no need to repeat things.
I’m not sure why the author has Max being a vicar; he doesn’t seem to have a strong belief system. I understand the reason given - after an awful time in the spy business, he turned to something more wholesome - but he could have been a farmer.
I really like the narrator in this series so will probably listen to more in the series but just as a companion as I walk.
Too much Too many plot threads, too many asides — the core is very good, pruning would let the energy come through Too many detestable characters and too few humanizing touches - Too much detail -especially about clothes & shoes for no apparent reason and sometimes the details conflicted — little slips but distracting ones. Too many time worn phrases & observations — about generational differences, class differences
This is the second in the series I've tried to read and I doubt I will read anymore. Nothing about the story drew me in. In fact, the whole plot seemed overly drawn out and the characters never came to life.
I picked this book up as part of the "Blind Date with a Book" exhibit at the public library. It was wrapped in brown paper and labeled "A British mystery." I am glad I did. I enjoyed the book and will be reading the rest of the series. Sometimes things all seems to come together and this is one of those times. I am currently watching "Grantchester," a PBS show about a vicar that solves crimes in the 1950s. I am also enjoying working my way through the Louise Penny mystery series which follows quirky characters in a small village. This Max Tudor series combines both- it is about a vicar that solves crimes in a small village with entertaining characters.
This second volume was fun to read for the Christmas season as Max stays a local castle to help the local DCI solve a murder at the holidays. Max, the former MI5 agent who is now a village vicar, has a real ability to look at situations & see what's hiding. So as he talks to each of the suspects, Poirot-style, he gains clues until the final drawing room revelation with all the participants present. It's a Golden Age-type mystery with a modern setting, but a cozy in a charming village. Lots of fun, but an intelligent mystery.
note to gentle readers: there are a couple instances of language & that's it; why?
Second in the Max series. The setting was a castle near the Village with unhappy and not very nice family members all being gathered for a Christmas gathering when the old and overbearing Lord of the castle is murdered. Max saves the day for the police department, of course. My comments from the first title in the series still apply--too wordy, too many cutesy references (this one had one to Justin Bieber) for me to really enjoy, and too many details about some of the Villagers. I will take a break from these, although I can see reading one more, perhaps, in the future. Too much work to get through these.
Followed the first in the Max Tudor series quickly with the second- both available to me on the libby app. Max is involved in a series of murders at the castle- all the heirs are there when Lord FootRussell (I love her names) is killed. All the usual odd assortment of characters and a budding romance for the vicar. Excellent narration of the fun series!
This book appealed to me b/c I was looking for a mindless holiday cozy for my holiday travels. I listened to the audiobook version of this book and honestly, I can't believe I finished it. The narration was enjoyable, which is a big reason I kept listening. This is a standard British cozy and the dialogue and character banter was entertaining, but the book really dragged on. When the mystery was solved and the murderer revealed it felt very anti-climactic and I was more than ready for it to be over. I won't be reading or listening to anything else in this series.