Release Date: Apr 17, 2018
Series: A Max Tudor Novel
Imprint: Minotaur Books
Max Tudor is the handsome vicar of St. Edwold’s Church in the small English village of Nether Monkslip. His friend and frequent partner in sleuthing, DCI Cotton, asks for Max’s help with a case in which Lady Duxter appears to have made a suicide pact with a young, married lover. Lord Duxter seems more interested in the writer’s retreat he hosts at his manor house than the tragedy involving his wife which seems very suspicious. Although, Max would rather work on his sermons and spend time with his unconventional wife and their young son, he can’t turn down Cotton’s request for help investigating the case, especially when it now appears a teenaged girl’s life could be in danger.
In Prior’s Wood begins with a “Cast of Characters” right out a classic Agatha Christie mystery. Like a “Miss Marple” mystery, Malliet’s latest also takes place in a small village in England. However, Max Tudor is not the typical, old-fashioned vicar. The handsome, intelligent Anglican priest is a former MI5 agent and his wife, Awena, is a Wiccan who owns a shop filled with various New Age items. With the differences in their beliefs, Max and Awena are an unlikely couple and yet their love for each other is true and is one of the things that makes this series so special. Another highlight of the book is the author’s subtle humor. For example, Lord Duxter reads a proposal sent to his publishing company that outlines a book about a vicar who used to be an MI5 agent and Duxter proclaims the idea “boring.” The author’s quick wit is demonstrated throughout the book, which makes it a pleasure to read.
I haven’t read all of the previous books in this series, but it’s easy to connect with the characters and the story. In Prior’s Wood is the most engaging out of the books in the series that I have read. The murder investigation kept my interest from beginning to end. The plot details are complex and there is more than meets the eye with many of the characters. When the truth comes out about what really happened with Lady Dexter and also the missing teenager, it’s surprising. There is a sub-plot with a “ghost story” about another teen girl who went missing from Prior’s Wood in the 1800s that adds atmosphere and a little tension to an already intriguing mystery. In Prior’s Wood has all the best elements of a classic British cozy mystery, but with more complexity to better entertain modern readers.