“G. M. Malliet has crafted the English village of our dreams.” —Charlaine Harris
Agatha Award-winning author G. M. Malliet has charmed mystery lovers and cozy fans with her critically acclaimed mysteries. In Prior's Wood, featuring handsome spy-turned-cleric Max Tudor, won’t disappoint.
Newly returned from investigating a murder in Monkslip-super-Mare, handsome Max Tudor wants nothing more than to settle back into his predictable routine as vicar of St. Edwold’s Church in the village of Nether Monkslip. But the flow of his sermon on Bathsheba is interrupted when the lady of the local manor house is found in a suicide pact with her young lover.
Lady Duxter’s husband rallies quickly from the double tragedy—too quickly, it is murmured in the village. Lord Duxter already has offered his manor house to a motley crew of writers, including Max’s wife Awena, for his writers’ retreat, and he insists the show must go on.
When a young girl goes missing and a crime writer becomes a target, DCI Cotton asks Max to lend his MI5 expertise to the investigation.
Many suspects emerge as the scope of the investigation widens beyond the writers to villagers who had crossed swords with the insufferably smug crime author. But Max begins to wonder: was the attack on the writer only part of a broader conspiracy of silence?
Malliet's solid seventh Max Tudor mystery (after 2017's Devil's Breath) finds Max, a "dashing MI5 agent turned clergyman with a talent for solving crime," hoping for a respite from crime-solving in the quintessential English town of Nether Monkslip. Of course, that wish is dashed after the bodies of a man and a woman turn up, the victims of an apparent suicide pact, in Prior's Wood, which was the site of the disappearance of the local squire's teenage daughter in Victorian times. Skeptical of things as they appear, Max and his friend on the force, Detective Chief Inspector Cotton, pursue the possibility of murder, which leads them to the household of Lord Duxter, a publisher who was knighted for his contributions to the arts and who founded a writers' retreat in Nether Monkslip. There are some arch touches (as with a character baffled by the title of one of Malliet's own books), but this whodunit should satisfy most cozy fans.)
Slow and repetitive
This novel spends almost the first third on a historical back story with no bearing on the plot, describes scenes that are relevant of nothing, and many extra chapters repeating material already covered. I wondered many times if the author was paid by the word. The first couple books in this series were both charming and full of character, but these last few have been difficult to wade through.