The mys­tery of the deadly fruit­cake in the nun­nery

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - OLINE H. COGDILL

G.M. Mal­liet con­tin­ues to up­date the tra­di­tional Bri­tish vil­lage mys­tery in her highly en­ter­tain­ing A De­mon Sum­mer.

While the vil­lage of Nether Monkslip is typ­i­cal, the twist that Mal­liet spins so well is that the lo­cal vicar, Max Tu­dor, was a for­mer agent with MI5, the Bri­tish counter-in­tel­li­gence agency.

While this con­ceit might seem a bit too pre­cious, Mal­liet’s re­spect for the genre seam­lessly makes Max’s for­mer ca­reer a nat­u­ral part of the plot. Mal­liet’s se­ries looks at how a for­mer spy, dis­il­lu­sioned with the job, rein­vents him­self as an Angli­can priest. It also shows how a re­li­gious man ad­min­is­ters to an in­creas­ingly sec­u­lar world.

Of course, th­ese be­ing mys­ter­ies, Max’s for­mer oc­cu­pa­tion of­ten comes in quite handy.

The fourth novel in this se­ries of­fers a change in scenery as a nun­nery stands in for the vil­lage. Max is asked by Bishop Nigel St. Stephen to take a brief break from his du­ties to spend a few nights at Monkbury Abbey. The bishop has taken a hands-off ap­proach to the nun­nery, but lately, he sus­pects “fi­nan­cial shenani­gans” be­cause large do­na­tions have gone miss­ing.

When the de­spised Earl of Lisle­livet be­comes se­ri­ously ill after eat­ing a fruit­cake given to him by the sis­ters, the bishop wor­ries the poi­son­ing wasn’t ac­ci­den­tal. He’s re­ly­ing on Max’s spy skills to learn the truth about the fruit­cake and the abbey’s fi- nances.

Max dis­cov­ers the re­li­gious at­mos­phere is rife with gossip and leg­ends of buried trea­sure, and the nun­nery is di­vided — some nuns want to mod­ern­ize the abbey while oth­ers do not.

Wry hu­mour per­me­ates A De­mon Sum­mer. After all, haven’t most of us thought that fruit­cakes were, in some way, lethal?

Yet Mal­liet also weaves in a se­ri­ous sub­plot about fam­i­lies, de­vo­tion and why some peo­ple are at­tracted to a near clois­tered life.

Each visit to Nether Monkslip with its mix of ec­cen­tric and or­di­nary res­i­dents has been a de­light.

A De­mon Sum­mer pays trib­ute to the vil­lage mys­tery while show­ing its rel­e­vance to mod­ern times.

A De­mon Sum­mer G.M. Mal­liet Mino­taur

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