Sunday, July 15, 2012
Summer Reading: G. M. Malliet, Bonnie Hearn Hill, Peg Brantley
G. M. Malliet writes cozy mysteries, but they're not the cat-and-tea typed -- they feature mostly gentle people who are puzzled by the intrusion of crime into their lives. She began with Death of a Cozy Writer (leading off her DCI St Just series), for which she won an Agatha Award (recognizing strong traditional mysteries). I picked up her 2011 book, WICKED AUTUMN (from Minotaur), which starts a different series: Max Tudor, vicar in a small English village, has a past that he's trying to escape. No, it's not an ex-wife or a crime; Max was an agent for MI5, went through a crisis of faith, and came out of it with a calling to lead a rural church. Although he regrets the way he sees criminal actions and the dark side of some humans, he cares intensely about his village of Nether Monkslip and is getting to know the residents more deeply. Their antagonism toward bossy, manipulative Wanda Batton-Smythe bothers him, but he doesn't have the confidence to interfere. Soon enough, he wishes he'd taken action, before a deadly turn of events.
Hints at depth of character for Max and for Awena Owen, "the village's self-proclaimed New-Agey Neopagan, for want of a better description, add a light and pleasant fragrance to the crime-solving, which hinges -- ah, poor Max -- on the grubby and ungrateful side of a couple of characters. The book is a pleasant and engaging read, and garnered a lot of positive attention: recommended on NBC's Today Show, and nominated for yet another Agatha Award (2012). I look forward to this fall's sequel, A FATAL WINTER. See the author's website, http://www.gmmalliet.com, for more details and a charming picture of Nether Monkslip.
Bonnie Hearn Hill provides a page-turner that jets from one voice to another, the senator, his wife, the other women in his life, and some twisted, nasty sorts that you don't want to meet on a dark night (but you know you might, which is why you're carrying pepper spray and took a course in self-defense, right?). I'll be looking for more of this author's thrillers -- you can see the list here, http://www.bonniehhill.com/thrillers.html -- but probably won't indulge in her latest novel, which is paranormal romance.
And you know, one of the big thrills of reading as many mysteries and crime novels as Dave and I do is: We want to spot the early-career writers who are going to give us work that rocks our world.
Later this week, books from Malla Nunn, and a look forward at Michelle Gagnon's powerful "young adult" thriller, DON'T TURN AROUND. Plus a comparison of two very strange items, one from (oh yeah) Dave Zeltserman and the other from Stephen Seitz.