WICKED AUTUMN by G. M. Malliet: Malliet's St. Just series is one of my favorite cozy mystery series, a tongue-in-cheek homage to the classic drawing-room mysteries, so I was very excited to pick up the first in her new series, WICKED AUTUMN. The Max Tudor series is not off to an auspicious start. While St. Just grabbed me from the beginning and had me laughing in delight, WICKED AUTUMN was a hard slog. I had to make myself keep reading so I could get to the end and write my review. Max Tudor is a former MI5 agent, now a village priest in charming Nether Monkslip. The horrid Wanda Batton-Smythe, head of the Women's Institute, is murdered. Since we are told early and often of Ms. Batton-Smythe's life-threatening peanut allergy, I hardly consider it a spoiler to disclose the method of murder. Yes, Death by Peanut. I could see that coming from miles away. Will Max need to dive into the murder investigation? Will Max have at least one potential love interest with which to flirt? Is there an obligatory New Ager with whom he gets on well despite their fundamental philosophical differences? Is there a stuffy former military man who thinks he's the center of the universe? Yes, all these and more cliches abound. Where DEATH OF A COZY WRITER subverted the genre with gentle mocking, WICKED AUTUMN seems to be trudging along in its well-worn footsteps. The major problem is character development, of which there is precious little. You might think that a former MI5 agent who decides to become a priest would be complex and nuanced, but this is sadly not the case. Max seems to be acting the part of the amateur detective with a dark past, rather than embodying it. The same is true of his supporting cast. The New Ager has no dimension beyond her New Ageyness. Likewise, wealthy antiques dealer Noah is just that -- a caricature of a wealthy antiques dealer. I found not a character with enough personality for me to relate to. This, coupled with a predicable, plodding mystery, made for a book I was glad to see the last page of.
Source disclosure: I received an ARC courtesy of the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.