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Wicked Autumn (Max Tudor Series #1)

Wicked Autumn (Max Tudor Series #1)

3.3 36
by G. M. Malliet

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What could be more dangerous than cozy village life in the English countryside? 

Max Tudor has adapted well to his post as vicar of St. Edwold’s in the idyllic village of Nether Monkslip. The quiet village seems the perfect home for Max, who has fled a harrowing past as an MI5 agent. Now he has found a measure of peace among urban escapees and


What could be more dangerous than cozy village life in the English countryside? 

Max Tudor has adapted well to his post as vicar of St. Edwold’s in the idyllic village of Nether Monkslip. The quiet village seems the perfect home for Max, who has fled a harrowing past as an MI5 agent. Now he has found a measure of peace among urban escapees and yoga practitioners, artists and crafters and New Agers. But this new-found serenity is quickly shattered when the highly vocal and unpopular president of the Women’s Institute turns up dead at the Harvest Fayre. The death looks like an accident, but Max’s training as a former agent kicks in, and before long he suspects foul play. 

Max has ministered to the community long enough to be familiar with the tangled alliances and animosities among the residents, but this tragedy surprises and confounds him. It is impossible to believe anyone in his lovely village capable of the crime, and yet given the victim, he must acknowledge that almost everyone had probably fantasized about killing Wanda Batton-Smythe.

As the investigation unfolds, Max becomes more intricately involved. Memories he’d rather not revisit are stirred, evoking the demons from the past which led him to Nether Monkslip. In WICKED AUTUMN, G.M. Malliet serves up an irresistible English village—deliciously skewered—a flawed but likeable protagonist, and a brilliantly modern version of the traditional drawing room mystery.


Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This appealing first in a new cozy series from Agatha-winner Malliet (Death at the Alma Mater) introduces Max Tudor, ex-MI5 officer turned Anglican priest at St. Edwold’s in the village of Nether Monkslip. Since Wanda Batton-Smythe has made herself the most hated individual in town with her officious manner and harsh treatment of volunteers working on the annual Harvest Fayre, no one’s too surprised when her body turns up one day in the village hall. Wanda appears to have died of a severe allergic reaction, possibly by accident, but the calm, unemotional Max is certain it’s a case of “malice aforethought.” Guided by the MI5 premise that “everyone is a suspect,” Max interviews one and all around Nether Monkslip, from a harried chef to a frightened young acolyte who faints during Wanda’s funeral. The action builds to a tense confrontation at St. Edwold’s. Readers will look forward to seeing more of the Rev. Tudor. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Agatha Award-winning author Malliet (Death of a Cozy Writer) debuts a superb new series. Imagine for a moment that Max Tudor, a disillusioned former MI5 agent, has become an Anglican priest. So now he's the vicar in this small idyllic village with all its foibles and strong personalities. Wanda Batton-Smythe, a much reviled, bossy, and brusque village leader, is found dead after being poisoned during the Harvest Fayre she was coordinating. Max is stunned, as if a "snake in his Garden of Eden" has struck, but the local investigators are thrilled to have an inside guy (MI5!) to help them out. As expected, a variety of motives surface, and Max learns much about his parishioners and neighbors. VERDICT Malliet's hero shows his dogged determination to bring justice to his people. You'll marvel at the author's low-key humor and crystal-clear depictions of small-town life. Yes, this is a true homage to Agatha Christie, but Malliet, like Louise Penny, brings a contemporary freshness to the traditional mystery. [Minotaur First Edition Selection; library marketing.]
Kirkus Reviews
A vicar is charged with investigating a small-town death in this character-driven cozy.

Max Tudor has left MI5 for a quieter life in the countryside of Nether Monkslip. Now the vicar in the small town, Max is living the restful, routine life he's dreamed of until this year's Harvest Fayre goes terribly wrong. Max is one of two people to discover the body of Wanda Batton-Smythe, Head of the Women's Institute of Nether Monkslip, dead of an apparent allergic reaction. DCI Cotton, assigned to the case, is happy to have Max's help in investigating, since both men suspect foul play. The leading question in Wanda's mysterious death is who isn't a suspect, for the pushy and forceful community leader could've counted most townspeople as enemies. As expected, Malliet(Death and the Lit Chick, 2009, etc.) assembles a quirky cast of characters for Max to interview, including passive local knitter Lily Iverson, Wanda's shell of a husband Major Batton-Smythe and local New Age guru Awena Owen, Max's close friend. As the personalities drive the action, Max slowly unravels the events that led to Wanda's untimely demise.

Another meandering whodunit where the virtuous are rewarded and the wicked punished, providing the sort of comfort a quintessential cozy can offer.

Marilyn Stasio
There are certain things you really want to have in a village mystery: a pretty setting, a tasteful murder, an appealing sleuth, a festive event, some eccentric locals, a dash of humor and maybe a nice map. G. M. Malliet delivers all that in Wicked Autumn
—The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher

"[Malliett] brings a contemporary freshness to the traditional mystery."—Library Journal

"There are certain things you really want to have in a village mystery: a pretty setting, a tasteful murder, an appealing sleuth, a festive event, some eccentric locals, a dash of humor and maybe a nice map. G. M. Malliet delivers all that in Wicked Autumn…"—The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Max Tudor Series , #1
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Wicked Autumn

A Max Tudor Novel
By G. M. Malliet

Minotaur Books

Copyright © 2011 G. M. Malliet
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312646974


The Women

Wanda Batton-Smythe, head of the Women’s Institute of Nether Monkslip, liked to say she was not one to mince words. She might add that she was always one to call a spade a spade, and that what more people needed was simply to pull their socks up and get on with it. She was saying these things now—calling on all the resources in her cliché lineup, in fact—to a captive audience of approximately thirty-five women who, to a woman, were wishing themselves elsewhere than in the Village Hall, sitting on orange molded-plastic seats that might have been rejects from an ergonomics study, on an otherwise peaceful Saturday night in September.
Reports of members present and apologies for absence received (Miss Pitchford had a head cold) had already been swiftly recorded. The women had stood to sing the traditional “Jerusalem,” if at a somewhat faster tempo than was customary. Still, they had reached this night a deep, throaty trill on “Bring me my chariot of fire!”—for so many, a favorite line, unifying the straying or hesitant warblers into a mighty whole—before the effort collapsed again at “I will not cease from mental fight.”
Finally, reports from the Flower Show and Guy Fawkes committees had been rushed through in unseemly haste, lest they detract from the main event: Wanda Batton-Smythe’s address to the troops.
The men of the village, upholding a time-honored tradition in the division of labor, were of course safely ensconced amongst the gleaming brass and cheery glow of the nearby Hidden Fox pub.
“I am, as you know, not one to mince words, and you can always count on me to call a spade a spade,” Wanda reminded them, her voice filling the room like a sonic gun. “The preparations for the annual Harvest Fayre are in an absolute shambles. We have all got to start pulling our socks up.”
Calling on her knowledge of public speaking, newly refreshed by a rereading of the 1983 classic Grabbing Your Audience by the Throat: Tips and Tricks for the Successful Orator, Wanda paused, her unblinking gaze panning the crowd, gathering eyeballs like so many marbles into her rhetorical basket.
“A shambles,” she repeated, a doomsday prophetess. “It’s an absolute disgrace.”
Lily Iverson, rightly assuming part of this condemnation to be aimed starkly at her small head, began a stuttering apology, but in such a small voice as to be easily drowned out by Wanda’s stentorian tones. It was a bullying technique nicely honed during Wanda’s time in the trenches of the parish council meetings, where skirmishes over the proposed redesign of the coat of arms had become the stuff of legend. The name Wanda Batton-Smythe indeed was often invoked by young parents in warnings aimed at keeping their offspring in line, for she had become for many an embodiment of fear, a veritable bogeywoman.
Wanda now stood before the group, marshaling her resources for further onslaught, her broad, still-handsome face framed by a starchy collar over a dark summer wool dress that Cotton Mather would have approved. Her hair was a helmet of hardened curls, like rows of teeny brown snakes highlighted and poised to strike, living testament to the efficacy of Final Net, and her bosom was tightly bound in some unmoving modern wonder fabric that rendered her body rigid and unbowing, much like her mind. The gray eyes again scanned her audience like an advance scout awaiting the approach of enemy forces. Altogether she looked, as always, more like a woman gearing up for battle than the leader of a group of well-intentioned if somewhat loopy volunteers. Much of her life with her husband the Major, as well as her own service in the Women’s Royal Army Corps, had rubbed off.
“Wanda, I don’t think—” began Suzanna Winship, the willowy blond sister of the local doctor, coming to the defense of Lily, whose lower lip had begun to tremble around her adult braces. Wrapped in a fluffy white mohair dress of her own design (Lily owned a local yarn and knitting business), her hair clipped short around protuberant ears, she resembled a Chihuahua puppy abandoned in a snowdrift.
Wanda pounced.
“You have not asked to be recognized, nor have you been given permission to speak.”
“Permission to speak?” Suzanna spluttered, looking round her: Did anyone else find Wanda ridiculous? They did, but no one had the courage to indicate so by word or deed, at least not to Wanda’s face. Suzanna was new to the village. She’d learn.
Elka Garth, a grandmotherly woman in her fifties who owned the village bakery-slash-tearoom, did exhale a soft little sigh, adjusting her thick glasses and wishing the Reverend Max Tudor would hurry up and marry so his wife might take on the role traditionally allotted to those in her position. A palace coup, as it were, was called for. But the Vicar remained unwed—despite being a rakishly handsome man whose arrival in the village three years ago had had much the impact of a Hugh Grant exiting the elevator as Aretha Franklin sang “What you want, baby, I got” (Elka was a movie buff). His advent having utterly galvanized the female population, he remained, it was felt, stubbornly unattached despite the concerted best efforts of every woman in Nether Monkslip to corral him for either themselves or a relative. Over time, he tended to be thought of as “more in the mold of Tom Hanks,” which only leant more to his appeal, and to the frustration of what came to be called, with linguistic inaccuracy, the Anglican Yenta Corps.
Only slightly daunted, Suzanna now stood up in her sexy, slip-on heels, her hair artfully tousled, a cruel if unintentional contrast to Wanda’s battened-down façade. Aware that most women hated her on sight, or at least regarded her with deep suspicion as having the potential to quickly develop, without careful monitoring, into the village hussy, Suzanna had cultivated in self-defense a genuinely warm and disarming persona. The others watched in awed silence as they realized she was going to engage. It was like watching a sacrificial virgin preparing to fling herself into the mouth of an active volcano.
“It is not Lily’s fault that the vendor let us down,” Suzanna said loudly, anticipating Wanda’s air-raid siren shout-down. When roused, Suzanna could give as good as she got, and in defense of someone already as downtrodden as Lily, Suzanna could be formidable indeed. Besides, she knew there lingered among the members of the Women’s Institute some unresolved feeling, however unwarranted, from the debacle that was the “All about Mixing Cocktails!” program of earlier in the year. Suzanna, who had suggested the scheme, and felt some ground had been lost in the sound-judgment department, was anxious to shine here.
“The Fayre this year apparently has been a cock-up all round compared with previous years, but perhaps we could focus efforts on what we should be doing to be ready anyway in one week’s time.”
Wanda, who had drawn a deep, shocked breath on the word “cock-up,” had not otherwise disturbed the loaded silence of the room. Mme Cuthbert, who operated La Maison Bleue wine and cheese shop with a polished élan, allowed herself a small moue of approval in Suzanna’s direction. The others stared straight ahead, like zombies in a bad sci-fi movie.
Finally, Awena Owen, the village’s self-proclaimed New-Agey Neopagan, for want of a better description, was emboldened to speak, pushing back her thick dark hair, striking because of its single streak of white over one brow. She stood, feet solidly planted, a vital, comely, and charismatic figure who, although essentially otherworldly, managed to operate her New Age gift shop on a large profit margin. She was well liked and respected by the villagers, who called her the Great White Oprah.
“I have a few extra chairs in my shop,” Awena said now, “cluttering up the back room. One needs mending, is all. I’d bet the rest of us could have a look in our attics and find something there too. Save us money, anyway, and this is all for charity.”
Wanda Batton-Smythe found her voice at last.
“I Know It’s For Charity,” she bit out, her tone now apocalyptic. She looked like a bishop about to consign the Maid of Orléans to the flames. “We’ll have a hodgepodge of furniture in the tea tent that won’t match.” Her mouth, which she had barely peeled open for speech, now snapped shut in a thin line of distaste, as if Awena had suggested they all ride naked in the fete’s pony ride.
“So?” said Awena, not unreasonably.
“Then that’s settled,” yelled Suzanna, in triumph this time. She began rootling in her handbag for pencil and paper. “If everyone would put down their name and the number of chairs they think they can provide. We’ll need tables, too, of course. Now, as to the Bring and Buy…”
Lily swiveled a brief, grateful glance in her direction, but overall Lily’s round brown eyes remained fixed on Wanda’s face. It was a sight not without fascination as outrage, frustration, and murderous impulse struggled for supremacy. Wanda seemed to telegraph an unambiguous Fuck you in Suzanna’s direction, but when she spoke she had evidently decided to “Rise Above It.” Cutting across the Bring and Buy chatter, she said, “As we seem to have no choice in the matter, due to the incompetence of the person in charge” (here she pointed a quivering, outraged finger in Lily’s direction, in case anyone remained in doubt about who was to blame), “this poor stopgap measure will have to do.” She sighed heavily, dissatisfaction puckering her lips. “As I am in charge of the Bring and Buy, there is no need for further discussion. That will come off like clockwork.” The or else was implied, and hung in the air like sulfur following a visit from Beelzebub himself. “Now, tonight we have refreshments, provided by Elka Garth, so if there is no further business…” She brought down the gavel before anyone could speak.
Nonetheless, Elka had a small contribution to make.
“I’ve brought two kinds of biscuits—chocolate this time. As usual, one made with peanuts and one without.”
Wanda nodded her approval. She was allergic to peanuts and appreciated that Elka always made concessions in this regard. There was a headlong rush toward the food-and-drinks table followed by more than a little genteel elbowing, for Elka was a superb baker.
Pigs to the trough, thought Wanda. Aloud she said, with a regal nod, in public recognition of a good and faithful servant, “Thank you sooo much, Elka.”
Lead by example, that was the ticket. Never let it be said that Wanda Batton-Smythe was not the embodiment of gracious behavior at all times. She folded her glasses into her handbag—a handbag ever present, like the Queen’s—and snapped it shut.

Copyright © 2011 by G. M. Malliet


Excerpted from Wicked Autumn by G. M. Malliet Copyright © 2011 by G. M. Malliet. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Malliet has mastered the delights of the cozy mystery so completely that she seems to be channeling Agatha Christie... [with] ironic humor that contribute[s] a little spice to the village charm, making the story even more delicious. Religion, espionage, tea, and crumpets: a winning menu." Booklist starred review "Agatha Award–winning author Malliet (Death of a Cozy Writer) debuts a superb new series... You’ll marvel at the author’s low-key humor and crystal-clear depictions of small-town life...  Malliet, like Louise Penny, brings a contemporary freshness to the traditional mystery."

Library Journal, starred review  “Hugely funny, exquisitely well written, Wicked Autumn is a tongue-in-cheek village mystery to be savored.  G.M. Malliet's arch tone and wry humor make her a writer to be treasured.”

—Julia Spencer-Fleming, bestselling author of ONE WAS A SOLDIER

“A superb novel!  Filled with humor and insight, G.M. Malliet creates a fabulous setting in Nether Monkslip and a great series hero in Father Max Tudor.  Rarely have I read descriptions that have left me gasping, in both their hilarity and their painful truth.   A wonderful read.” —Louise Penny, Agatha award–winning author of the Armand Gamache mysteries

One of the most delightful English village mysteries I’ve read since Agatha Christie stopped writing about Saint Mary Mead.  G.M. Malliet’s sly allusions to both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot will make Christie fans chuckle, but Nether Monkslip is no village that time forgot—not with its new age citizenry and a vicar who’s a dishy ex-MI5.  Highly recommended.”

—Margaret Maron, Edgar, Anthony, Agatha winner,  and author of CHRISTMAS MOURNING

"A contemporary and deliciously wicked homage to Agatha Christie's village mysteries, with an equally delicious hero who is infinitely sexier than Miss Marple.  Once readers meet handsome, intelligent, witty MI5 spy-turned-Anglican priest Max Tudor, they'll be searching their maps for the village of Nether Monkslip!"—Deborah Crombie, New York Times bestselling author of NECESSARY AS BLOOD

"G. M. Malliet has brought the village cozy into the 21st century—where else could the Vicar be retired from MI5? Written with dry humor and a wickedly accurate portrait of the modern English village, Wicked Autumn is a refreshing and fun read for everyone who loves a really good murder." —Charles Todd, NY Times Best-selling author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge Series



Meet the Author

Winner of the Agatha Award for Death of a Cozy Writer, which initially won the Malice Domestic grant, G.M. MALLIET attended Oxford University and holds a graduate degree from the University of Cambridge, the setting for her previous series, the St. Just mysteries.

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Wicked Autumn 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
mystery_fan More than 1 year ago
If you are a collector of first editions, you'll want to try to order this book the minute it becomes available. It is the traditional village mystery at its best--an intelligent cozy both men and women should enjoy. Clever, witty, smart. Believe what you've heard: This one will be around for a long time. This is a review of an Advance Review Copy of the book. Recommended for fans of Louise Penny.
Michelle1948 More than 1 year ago
...and I'm glad that I gave this one a chance. It is multiple characters within a small village whose vicar is a former MI5 agent. Its a village in which the Vicar feels that no evil could intrude. But it does. A murder is committed. It's interesting in how it is written. You follow the vicar as he visits each of the more prominent citizens within the village and you get to know them. You are almost in the Vicar's thoughts as he contemplates every meeting and word spoken. And as he sips each cup of tea, he starts to see how someone could fathom so much hate for a person and it leads to "MURDER." I think this is a great introduction to the villagers and a Vicar and the mystery that could lie ahead for them in each new book. I will definitely look for more in this series.
nancydrew123 More than 1 year ago
I was so excited to read this book because of the great reviews. This was just ok for me. The characters were bland and the story was flat. It could have been so good because it had all of the elements of a good cozy. Small English village - cast of town characters - a Fall Fair -- and a murder. Instead of interlacing clues through good character development and plot twists and turns the author described unnecessary things in detail. At times I found myself skimming thru a long boring room description in order to move the story forward. The story seemed to be more about the Fayre (the Fall Fair) than the murder. The murder victim fell flat and I found myself not caring who killed her. And as a matter of fact I think I read more descriptions of rooms and clothing than I did about murder clues. I did read the entire book because I wanted to give this book a chance. I'm not sure if I'll read the next book in this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the book entertaining enough to keep my interest but not dark & heavy reading. Reminded me of a 40's murder mystery movie, which I've always enjoyed. There was enough backround information on the characters to make them realistic. This was the first time I've read G.M. Malliet, but would definetly read other books by the same author based on this one. If you enjoy a (dare I say) light murder mystery, pick this one up.
SolverFan More than 1 year ago
The hours you spend with the suspicious denizens of this English village will be rewarding. The book is a treat for those who like cozies, wit, and character development. I will definitely look for and buy the next G. M. Malliet.
ogd More than 1 year ago
would recommend this book for a quiet evenings read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The characters are great, lots of quirks, and the village life detail is very authentic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mild-mannered mystery set in English village, a fun read that plays fair with its clues.
ishgh More than 1 year ago
It would be fun to live in their village, likeable people, mystery with a twist, a real surprise at the end.
BWT More than 1 year ago
Too long winded. Terrible in Nook format, missing text.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Slow read but free of grafics plus a little preaching
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Delphimo More than 1 year ago
Malliet's novel quickly ends with all the problems solved and the local residents returning to customary habits. This novel reminded me of the Grantchester series on PBS, but the time period differs. Nether Monkslip is a bucolic community in England, with a retired MI5 agent tending to the religion of his flock. Amid the joyous celebration for the beginning of autumn, a local woman dies under suspicious circumstances. Max and Detective Chief Inspector Cotton struggle to find the killer before another person dies. The local people are friendly, but guarded, and Max and Cotton misread the clues. Malliet writes a cozy mystery which omits graphic scenes of death. Max presents his reason for the change in profession, and drops a little sermon to the reader.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so boring I had a hard time getting through it . It just went on and on and on. I skimmed the last 75 pages to get it over and done with and find out who the murderer was.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tedious and poorly written. Don't bother reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JaynaM More than 1 year ago
Made it to about page 67 and gave up. Turgid, overdone writing style - a very poor imitation of Simon Brett.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Boring and snide, made it to page 30 or so. Liked the design of the book.
HeyTeach More than 1 year ago
With Agatha Christie as the gold standard for a truly puzzling mystery, G. M. Malliet comes in with a strong "silver medal" placing. If you want to get in on the beginning of what promises to be a good series, I definitely recommend reading this first book. I plan on buying the second book of the series as soon as it is published.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago