Pagan Spring by G.M. Malliet
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received an advance copy of this through a goodreads giveaway, and am a new fan. This is the third in the Max Tudor mystery series, so you might want to start off with the first two, in which ex-spy Max Tudor, now a priest in the Church of England, is assigned to be Vicar of the village of Nether Monkslip (and two others, it appears).
As an ex-spy, Max has some respect from the constabulary that's usually not present in the case of amateur sleuths, a welcome twist. As a vicar, he has an insider/outsider access to his parish that's very handy for investigations. Since he has fallen in love with the woman who owns Goddesspell, (you can guess she's not high-church, and maybe not church at all), Max is woven into village life quite speedily. With comic relief provided by his housekeeper and the village writer's group, gossip provided by the local postmistress and beauty shop, and drama provided by village life itself, the series is set to provide many book's worth of reading pleasure.
In this particular entry, the murder victim, appropriately the person you love to hate, is newly retired actor and playwright Thomas Bottle. Though there is no one who knows him from the old days, Thomas has bought the village house he used to live in as a child, and hopes to be the center of attention--large fish in a small pond. Unfortunately, the villagers are not impressed. Thomas is mean and bullying, and at least one person thinks he ought to die. Is it Melinda, the wife he belittles and controls? Her lover? Or someone else? Follow Max through the maze, and find out.
Though we call them cozies, these mysteries we love are not very cozy at all. With the obligatory village or small-town setting and cast of quirky characters, they are actually the scariest books of all, for what they expose are the everyday evils around us, the most common grievances and pettiness of crime. Jealousy, revenge, greed, and self-righteousness are the motives most likely for murders that can touch our real lives. Frustrated love, lack of love, and love gone awry are the basis of murders of passion, so "persons of the cloth," whose business is love, and sin, make good characters to sift through motives and madness and discover the truth. And that's where the "coziness" comes in, after all. Cozy is for closure. In literature, if not in life, justice prevails.
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