Monday, August 19, 2013

Miss Marple With a Twist

If you remember Agatha Christies' character Miss Marple, it's likely that you will enjoy G. M. Malliet's character Max Tudor. 

There are striking differences.  Tudor, in his late '30s, is a retired spy for M15.  Had he and his colleague Paul not switched days off, Tudor would have been killed instead of Paul.  After some reflection, he quit and became a cleric in a small but picturesque village in western England.  He is neither celibate nor completely out of the spy business.  In a previous book (and I'm looking forward to it) he solves a murder in the village and thus the local constabulary learns of his detecting skills.

"A Fatal Winter"  is set after Chedrow Castle's Lord Footrustle is murdered in his bed.  It proves to be unfortunate that Lord Footrustle had summoned his greedy and selfish relatives to the castle for Christmas only to tell them that come January he is changing his last will and testament. 

His body was discovered by the butler.  When his twin sister, Lady Baynard, was told of the savage murder, she promptly had a massive stroke and died forthwith.  Or was it a stroke...?

The author delights with the names of some of her characters --Jocasta Jones is a failed B movie actress, totally convinced that she is talented as well as beautiful - Botox and all.  Lester Baynard, a son of the Lady Baynard, and his wife Felberta (aka "Fester") hail from Australia.  Poor orphan Lamorna Whitehall was adopted by Lady Baynard (parents killed in a plane crash in Alaska) and now serves as her lady's maid.  She is alarmingly religious.

The dialogue is amusing  "'Thank you so much,'" she brayed in an upper-class accent."  "(He) half expected the obviously wealthy woman to say, 'Poverty?  What on earth is that?'"

Making it completely delightful - the inside covers have a pen and ink map of the locale written about in the book!

"A Fatal Winter" by G. M. Mailliet   Minotaur Books   364 pages   $24.99

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