The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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September 28, 2011

Wicked Autumn

I read so many mysteries that I'm not always very concerned about whether or not they're 'good.'  When they are - well written, characters deeply drawn and engaging, suspenseful, surprising twists, etc., etc., etc., I admire them, but I'm also pretty tolerant when they're not.  They're read for entertainment, not with a critical eye. But I do sometimes want them to be better.

When I read good things about this one (and it's a new series, too!) I immediately put it on reserve at the library.  I loved the sound of it {set in the English village of Nether Monkslip, murder at the Harvest Fayre, and the sleuth being the new vicar, Max Tudor, who used to be an operative in MI5}.  It was also perfect timing, because Wicked Autumn is set at Michaelmas {which was mentioned in Persuasion too, and -- I looked it up because I never knew -- turns out to happen on September 29}, and it's full of cold snaps, and nights closing in, and woodsmoke,  and it's the closest to feeling like fall that we're going to get for a while.

It wasn't terrible; it was a lot of fun to read, but I think the author was just trying too hard.  There was a lot of this...

He tarried by the wrought-iron gate that led into his front garden, quietly looking up at the anointing sky.
And this...

The hubbub that had reigned during the Fayre was gone; it was completely still. A blurry sun sat atop a clump of gray clouds like a portent of the world's end.
{Huh?!}  When (uninteresting) DCI Cotton asks Max for help, his investigation -- visiting his flock to find out what they might know -- seems more like a chance for the author to introduce her stock villagers than any kind of careful gathering of clues. There was something not quite convincing about the whole MI5-to-priest story, too (too much of the narrator, too little of the character?) Even the ending (not the solving of the murder, because there's a good twist there, but the beginning of things returning to normal) is 'borrowed' from another story.

Even so, if there's another book in this series, I'll probably read it, just for fun, and to see if they get better. G.M. Malliet wrote an earlier series, set at Cambridge; she won some mystery-writing awards for them, and I might look for those as well.  This was one of the six or seven mysteries that I've been looking forward to. They're all coming in now, so, leading up to our group read, with Frances and JoAnn and more friends, of The House of the Seven Gables, for discussion on October 14th, it might just be all imbibing peril, all the time, around here. :)


JoAnn said...

Happy Michaelmas! There's an interesting history in today's Writer's Almanac. I'll probably skip this mystery (only read a few each year), but wanted to tell you The House of the Seven Gables has picked up. I'm enjoying the second half much more!

Nicola said...

Interesting that you mentioned Michaelmas because I noticed it mentioned at least 3 times when I was reading Persuasion. My Mchaelmas daisies in the garden have not flowered yet though!

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