|The Rev Max Tudor
|The Rev Maxin "Max" Tudor had been the vicar of St Edwold's (one of three joined parishes) in the idyllic village of Nether Monkslip for 3 years. He was a “darkly handsome man .... tall and with a compact, muscular build" who was still the “object of much interest and strategic planning" by parishioners hoping to find him a wife. He “was a man physically at ease in the world, and his authoritative mien stood him well among the more fractious members of his congregation."
He had trained for the priesthood at Oxford after years spent in the service of the security service, MI5, to which he had been recruited while still an undergraduate at Oxford. However, after the violent death of a close friend and colleague, he felt he could not continue in MI5: "He had seen it all, witnessed too much .... So began his surrender to feeling rather than to thought" as he joined “the dwindling ranks of men and women who saw the church as an avenue of peaceful change."
He has a quick understanding of people and their motives and is a shrewd observer, so becomes what a friendly police officer calls, “a regular Miss Marple in Holy Orders".
Wicked Autumn (2011)
Other characters include Mrs Hoosier, who was “at best an indifferent housekeeper .... a fact to which Max had long become resigned .... With bovine cunning, she would attempt to hide the evidence of the latest catastrophe the broken crockery, the missing drawer handle."
There's also an unpublished author, Frank Cuthbert, who “was offering an unwary public his self-published book a long, wrangling, crackpot pamphlet really on the history of the region, spliced with dubious, hand drawn maps of local walks that, if followed closely could land the user miles from civilisation."
Then there is Constable Musteile who was “ramrod straight, unyielding, and imaginative. Profoundly stupid, in fact. A man who followed the rules, and asked no questions as to whether each rule really applied in every situation."
There are lots more such characters that emerge more as caricatures than as real people, although the author can write with real humour. Indeed even the figurine of a shepherdess is amusingly described as “made of plaster of Paris and amateurishly painted, the shepherdess's hectic expression suggesting a facelift operation gone wrong, the receipt of a telegram containing bad news, or the irretrievable loss of her flock."
The story unfolds in an unexciting sort of way and the final arrest of the murderer, followed by pages of explanatory material is less dramatic than you might suppose. It is intended as the first of a series of books so perhaps the character of Max Tudor will develop.
|The cover is arresting, but you can't help wondering what the artist who produced the original picture thought of the jacket designer who hid its most interestng part under the author's name.|