The subtitle is "An Arthurian Mystery," but this is NOT another tale mooning over Camelot
and the romance of the Round Table. Itís based on "the historical Arthur," an extraordinary war leader
in an interesting, real world time. To borrow a phrase from the publisherís site, the story really is
a sort of CSI: Medieval, filled with gritty realism and genuine crime-solving through
painstaking analysis of the evidence.
Arthur is on the cusp of being named Rigotamus or High King, but itís not a given. Thereís
competition for the title to go with those who simply donít favor Arthur for it, for reasons such
as his steadfast Christianity in a world where pagan beliefs still hold sway. Merlin is no magician
here, merely an aging wise man whose wits often wander, including into fantasies about being a sorcerer.
When a young woman is found murdered and mutilated outside his home it seems clear that someone is
trying to set Arthur up. Not for the crime itself, but by trying to force him into actions to save
his beloved teacher that will show him unworthy to be Rigotamus.
Arthur turns for help to a man he can trust and knows has the wit to sort things out without it
being assumed heís just a puppet. Magwyn ap Cuneglas was once a trusted friend and counselor but is
now a drunkard, bitterly refusing to forgive Arthur for not letting him die after losing a hand in
battle, leaving him— at least in his own mind— a half man. The clever brain Arthur once
valued showed a knack for solving mysteries while Magwyn was in an abbey healing from his wound, and
the murdered girl was someone he cared about. Perhaps through his helping Arthur, Arthur can help him
This is a compelling story full of interesting characters you believe in and care deeply about,
some with familiar names but not necessarily their traditional roles. The author has clearly done his
homework about the historical Arthur, while coming up with a variation that is wholly his own. Using
Magwyn as hero— someone who is both part of and separate from Arthurís inner circle— is a
great idea, reinforcing the gritty realism over the romantic myth. I also love that this is a real
detective story in the traditional sense; too many mysteries today rely on deus ex machine solutions.
Itís first in a series but also stands as a solid read on its own. Highly recommended.