Auntie M had the pleasure at this year’s Raleigh Bouchercon to spend time with G. M. Malliet and talk about her Max Tudor series and the ending of her newest, The Haunted Season, as well as what else she has in the works:
Auntie M: This book had a decidedly different feel, from trailing the antagonist to the darker ending. Care to say what’s in store for Max without giving any spoilers?
G. M. Malliet: Max definitely has a lot on his mind, with a new baby and his clerical work. But chasing the bad guys has given him a taste of what he was once very good at, working with MI5. So while he’s still going to be a vicar and be based where he is, I wouldn’t discount him becoming involved with his old MI5 cronies down the road . . .
AM: Wonderful! And a way to provide new interest for readers. So while Max is busy, what else do you have percolating?
GMM: I’m working on a stand alone, also set in England, what I call a domestic noir with a female protagonist. I’m doing it in first person and finding that’s a real challenge I’m enjoying.
AM: Readers will look forward to that for certain. Do you have any plans to do more in your award-winning St. Just series?
GMM: I hear from readers all the time that they’d like to read more of that series. I would pick it up if I can find an agent who’s interested in selling more.
AM: You’d have an easy sell there, for sure. The satire in those rang so true and were done so well. Who are you reading right now when you find you have a few minutes of down time?
GMM: I’m working my way through Tana French’s series, take the books to the gym and get some reading in. Enjoying those and her plotting. Broken Harbour has been my favorite so far.
AM: I enjoy those, too, and her newest, The Secret Place, was amazing for her ability to keep interest going through an entire book that takes place in one day. So what’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received that you’d like to share?
GMM: People used to say ‘write what you know’ but I’ve found that can be interpreted to mean “write what you’re interested in” because it gives you the passion you need. In my case, I’m fascinated by English villages and the life we find there.
AM: Me, too! Now on to the review:
G. M Malliet’s fifth Max Tudor mystery may be her best one yet. The Haunted Season finds the hunky vicar enjoying his role as husband and father to infant Owen. It’s a pastoral setting with dog Thea completing the little family, and the only things of worry at this point are funds for St. Ewold’s organ pipes, and a parishioner whose crush on the vicar becomes worrisome.
Balancing this out is his new curate, the Rev. Destiny Chatsworth, who will help to take some of his workload on her shoulders and seems to have the built-in empathy required for the job. Then a murder occurs too close to home to be ignored, bringing Max under the Bishop’s radar once again.
The manor house of Nether Monkslip is Totleigh Hall, mostly unoccupied with the Lord and Lady spending time in Spain, yet at present the entire family is in attendance: Lord Baaden-Boomethistle and his very attractive second wife; son Peregrine and daughter Rosamund, college students who are at war with each other constantly; and the Dowager Vicountess, “Crazy Caroline,” who writes steamy romance novels.
There are petty squabbles at meals between the members that hint at the underlying tensions in the household, until the rather ghastly murder of the Lord occurs, and Father Max is once again pressed into service for help to find a killer.
Malliet’s wry humor, sprinkled throughout the mystery, adds a touch of whimsy to the investigation headed by DCI Cotton. With the entire family under suspicion, it soon becomes clear that Max has his work cut out for him.
There will be interviews with previous nannies, and much delving into the family’s background. Max finds himself recalling Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar, and has dreams that seem designed to point him in the right direction.
What sets this episode apart is the darker tone the story takes near its end once the murder is solved, and the thread that hints at a new direction in the next chapter. Readers will be anxiously awaiting the next installment to see where Max Tudor goes next.