Hardcover, 256 pages
Expected publication: September 13th 2011 by St. Martin's Press
We first meet the imposing Wanda Batton-Smythe at a WI meeting in the Village Hall in the little town of Nether Monkslip where she is haranguing the members about doing more, much more, for the upcoming Harvest Fayre. It's only a week away and Wanda is not satisfied at the slack attempts that have been made so far. Does she have to do everything herself? Come on, people. Pull up your socks and get doing; after all it's for charity. What would the village do without Wanda? She just can't imagine!
Well, on Fayre day, the village will find out. In search of more tea and biscuits for the tea tent, Max Tudor, vicar for the past three years and local restauranteur, Guy Nicholls, volunteer to go find more supplies stored in the Village Hall. What they find is Wanda. Dead, and by the look of her, not from natural causes.
Despite the fact that the abrasive Wanda had stepped on a lot of toes with her bossy, heavy-handed ways and garnered a bit of animosity with her critical nature, the villagers can't believe someone set out to murder her deliberately. Not in their own "little Brigadoon." Nobody can even remember when there was last a murder. Speculation as to motive runs the gamut.
" It was a robbery, pure and simple," was the overall consensus.
" What was there to steal in the Village Hall? My gran's recipe for candied yams isn't that rare."
Even the local bobby, Musteile, has his theory as he explained to DCI Cotton of the Monkslip-super-Mare police dept.
"Clearly it will be Travelers responsible. I'll get right on it."
Cotton regarded him. "Travelers?"
"You know. Gypsies"
"You've spotted a caravan site of Gypsies, have you?"
"'Course not," Musteile was saying. "Sir, only stands to reason though."
And so the mechanics of the investigation begin, shattering the once peaceful village feel. Former MI5 agent and now the local vicar, Max Tudor, teams up with DCI Cotton in questioning the residents. The theory is most villagers will not be too open to the police but will be much more talkative to the vicar. After numerous cups of tea while visiting with a host of residents, he feels he is getting some good insight into what happened on that fateful Fayre day and the events leading up to it.
This is a great concept by the author to let the reader know more about the characters. At the beginning I was worried when I saw the somewhat lengthy list of characters. I felt there was no way all these could be developed but I was wrong. Malliet pulls it off and brilliantly! With a well constructed mystery plot, sparkling wit, characters that leap off the page and a wonderful sense of place, I was enchanted with this quintessential little British village and all the residents. 4****
G.M. Malliet is also the author of several other cozies. Her first book, Death of a Cozy Writer won her the Malice Domestic Grant , which went on to win the Agatha and was picked by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best books of 2008. The book also has been nominated for the Anthony and Macavity awards (best first novel), the David, and the Left Coast Crime/Hawaii 5-0 award for best police procedural.
Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by St. Martin's Press through LT's early reviewer program.