Wicked Autumn (Max Tudor 1) by GM Malliet

wicked autumnA tribute to the Golden Age…of America

😐 😐 😐 (UK) or 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 (Rest of the World)

President of the Women’s Institute and self-proclaimed leader of all village ventures, Wanda Batton-Smythe is overbearing and rude to all. Nobody likes her, but does someone hate her enough to kill her? When she is found dead during the Harvest Fayre, local MI5-agent-turned-vicar Max Tudor suspects foul play…

This is a fun take on the Golden Age mystery with much to recommend it. Well written and with a good deal of mild humour, the book nods repeatedly towards Agatha Christie and the author is clearly trying to emulate that style, with some success. Max Tudor is a likeable protagonist, who has left MI5 after becoming disillusioned. Following a road to Damascus moment, he has come late to his calling as vicar and brings his worldly knowledge to bear on this mystery. Some of the villagers are well fleshed out, though there is a tendency towards stereotyping.

The plot is shrouded in mystery till the very end and although some clues are given, really the dénouement relies too much on a twist that the reader could not have known, so not as fair as most Golden Age mysteries were. The book is also a bit over-padded with unnecessary descriptions of the village, of what characters were wearing, even of Max’s backstory – I felt it could have lost roughly a third of its 300 pages and been better for it.

Overall, though, an enjoyable read that would certainly encourage me to read more of the author’s work, and deserving of a 4-star rating…..

* * * * * * *

GM Malliet
GM Malliet

…..that is, if I were American! As a Brit, however, the constant Americanisation of the book grated hugely. This is after all a book about an English village written by an author who spent a considerable period of time living and studying in England. Most Brits (myself included) wouldn’t know who Cotton Mather is, wouldn’t nickname someone the Great White Oprah, wouldn’t refer to someone as Yenta (there aren’t usually too many Yiddish speakers in your average English village) and certainly wouldn’t plow their fields. We don’t plow, we plough! And all of those references come from just the first couple of chapters. If the author wanted to write about the US then she should have done so, but if writing about England then it’s surely not too much to ask that the cultural references should be English. We even had references to ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ – hardly a major talking point over the village tea tables in a country where the policy never existed.

Rant over! Recommended as an enjoyable read to anyone who can tolerate the mish-mash of misplaced cultural references. For me, however, this problem means the book only rates as 3 stars.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Constable & Robinson.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

35 thoughts on “Wicked Autumn (Max Tudor 1) by GM Malliet

  1. FictionFan – Oh, I don’t blame you one bit at all for being annoyed by that! I wouldn’t want to read a book that took place in the States and used UK terms for things. That terminology and those references help to give readers a sense of a place. If they’re not accurate it pulls the reader out of the story. Still, that said, I’m glad the story itself was enjoyable.


    • Haha! I felt better once I’d got that out of my system! And despite it, I did find the book enjoyable and might even read more in the series – once I’ve calmed down a bit… 😉


  2. I suppose America’s culture is just plumb great! Can’t be escaped.

    Interestingly, though, I don’t know who Cotton Mather, or what that great white thing is either!

    “Well written and with a good deal of mild humour, the book nods repeatedly towards Agatha Christie and the author is clearly trying to emulate that style, with some success.” I particularly loved this sentence. It is strange, I know, but it was very well put.


  3. Ugh – sounds awful!
    If anybody cares, Cotton Mather was an exceptionally nasty piece of Puritan work -see Salem witch trials etc.


    • Haha! You’re so right about the name. In fact, most of the names were a little odd…

      I reckon the book was really intended for the American market, but they really should have realised they might need to make a couple of changes for the UK market.

      Sorry for the delay in replying – suddenly WordPress seems to be sending half my comments to spam.


  4. First, I feel a little bad about giving this book as a gift to my mother-in-law after seeing your review, FictionFan, but I think she liked it. Second, I can tell you that I had to read some fiery Cotton Mather sermons in high school right before we read The Scarlet Letter.


  5. I love the two ratings (and the rant). In Canada, there are still quite a few of us who would “plough” (myself included), but there’s an inevitable pull towards the gravity of our southern neighbour. I feel your pain…


  6. I have a story that starts out here in Sausalito, but takes us to Dorset during the Second War, and eventually on to County Kerry during the first Obama campaign. If you’re not minding all the stuff your rant’s about, you’re not trying! Paying attention to these things is the easiest, subtlest way to set a piece “over there”, and not paying attention to them is the surest way to bollix the job.


    • Indeed! Nobody minds the occasional little cultural mix-up but when it’s constant… The book could just as easily have been set in a small town in America if the author wanted to keep US references – the English setting wasn’t essential to the plot. Just there to draw attention to the Christie parallels, I think.

      So this story, is it yours? If so, when can we expect it? Some of us are impatiently waiting, you know… 🙂


      • So kind of you to ask.

        It is. But it’s not a short story–I just can’t do them–so it’s next year if I do it myself, and gawdnosewhen if I wait for someone else to do it. At two hours a day (there’s college tuition to pay for our young lass, you see) it’s a little like red wine–it takes time, you know?


        • Well, OK, but do hurry up! 😉

          Seriously though, it sounds very interesting and I can believe it must have involved you in loads of research. I know both Dorset and County Kerry very slightly, but sadly Sausalito not at all. I’m looking forward to reading it, whenever you manage to get it finished!


  7. Good job you warned me off. This sort of thing has me gnashing my teeth and throwing things… preferably the book out of a sixth storey window.


  8. Ho ho this is a super review, FF! Very measured but I can detect the wrath between the lines. These Americanisms would have me frothing at the mouth. It seems a shame, as otherwise this has a lot going for it. But you can’t do a British village murder mystery without being absolutely, unreservedly, unapologetically BRITISH! Hopefully this otherwise talented author stuck to settings the other side of the pond for her other works. (Thanks for digging this out for me, much appreciated 🙂 )


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