I’ve just spent the last day or two reading G M Malliet’s “Wicked Autumn” set in the fictional village of Nether Monkslip, somewhere on the south western coast of England (though it sounds remarkably Cotswold-y in the book). Max Tudor, the ex-MI5 vicar (splendid elevator pitch there) is asked to investigate when the chairwoman of the local Women’s Institute is murdered at the annual village “Fayre”. Since she was one of those gratuitously bossy old trouts who managed to offend everyone, the vicar is not exactly short of suspects.
I enjoyed this but – and it’s a huge BUT – it’s written by an American for Americans, which is fine but there’s something lost in terms of authenticity. If Monarch butterflies did end up in England, they’d be at least 3,000 miles off course, and would probably be followed by a BBC Naturewatch camera crew hoping to capture a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. English children rarely have peanut butter and jam smears on their fingers – one or the other, not both. There are numerous references to American popular culture that simply don’t work in an English context, and some of the invented names, such as Mrs Hooser, Max’s housekeeper, sound plain wrong.
After a while, it began to seem like an American version of “Went the Day Well?”, and I was expecting the real villagers, who’d been locked up in a cellar somewhere, to emerge blinking into the light of day, and the impostors to be rounded up and arrested. The book stayed American to the (slightly hurried) end. I know this because I kept on reading – so I’m filing under “Guilty Pleasures”, on the basis that I know it’s bad for me but I enjoyed it anyway.