05 November 2012

Murder in the Castle

A Fatal Winter (Max Tudor #2) by G.M. Malliet (Minotaur trade paperback, 16 October 2012).

Readers first met Reverend Max Tudor in Wicked Autumn (2011), when he investigated the murder of the president of his church's Women's Institute.  This time around, the dishy Reverend is called to Chedrow Castle, near the village of Nether Monkslip where he lives. 

Oscar, Lord Footrustle, whose family owned the Castle before it was sold to the National Trust, has been murdered in his bed. His twin sister, Leticia, Lady Baynard is also deceased, presumably of natural causes upon hearing the news of her brother's death.

Local DCI Cotton asks Max, a former MI5 agent, to visit the castle in order to offer solace as a clergyman.  He ends up staying for a few days, at the behest of Lamorna Whitehall, Leticia's adoptive granddaughter, a blatantly pious young woman.  Reverend Tudor discovers that the extended family (ten in total) has been "visiting" for some months, and any of them could be the killer.  As he gets to know them, he realizes that the entire family is crazy, even the fourteen-year-old twins, Alec and Amanda.  The household staff, Milo and Doris Vladimirov,  might be involved as well.

Determining the identity of the killer seems an impossible task, and Max's somewhat arcane methods can be compared to those of Hercule Poirot, although Rev. Tudor is much less arrogant than Agatha Christie's sleuth.

The story is told in the third person, and point of view hops from character to character, at times a little abruptly.  But it's easy enough for the reader to catch up, and the list of characters at the beginning of the book helps a great deal. 

Like Malliet's earlier series with protagonist Inspector Arthur St. Just, the  story is humorous.  But although the humor here is much more subtle and dry, the reader will likely find herself chuckling out loud at times.

It's not necessary to have read Wicked Autumn to understand what's going on here.  Oh, check out GMMalliet.com for a cool interactive map of the village.

FTC full disclosure:  Many thanks to the publisher for the advance review copy.

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