Agatha Christie enters the 21st century with this new series. Max Tudor has been the vicar of St. Edwold’s in Nether Monkslip for three years. Prior to becoming an Anglican priest, he was a member of MI5 but became disillusioned and left the undercover world for what he assumed would be a quiet, affirming life in a sleepy English village. Not happening. Just as Miss Marple’s St. Mary Mead was rife with the less-desirable emotions that led to violent ends, so is Max’s world.
The head of the Women’s Institute is the obvious victim early on: vain, bullying, overbearing, and ripe for murdering, but that doesn’t spoil the story. I was ready to get her if the murderer didn’t! Max pretty much gets roped into investigating – who wouldn’t trust the vicar!
The story was a bit slow starting and there was a lot of character detail that I wasn’t sure was required, but as the first book in a series, getting to know the locals will probably prove helpful. The identity of the murderer was a surprise with the clues only obvious after the solution – very well played.
Malliet handles the blending of the 21st century (cell phones, forensics, relationships, etc.) with a small village with great finesse and intelligence. Nether Monkslip is a believable place in a modern world and Max Tudor an engaging protagonist. Wicked Autumn is a satisfying modern mystery in a comfortable, familiar setting.