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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review - The Beloved Dead

This week Ken reviews a historical mystery that takes place in King Arthur's Britannia.  The enduring legend of Arthur is mixed with political intrigue and a serial killer for a suspenseful medieval tale.

Author:  Tony Hays

Copyright:  2011; Tom Doherty Associates, LLC (A Forge Book); 395 pages

Series: # 3 of the Arthurian mystery series

Sensuality:  Violence

Mystery sub-genre: Historical Mystery / Investigation

Main Character:  Malgwyn Ap Cuneglas, a wise counselor to King Arthur

Setting:  Post-Roman Britain (Fifth Century)

Obtained book through:  Library Find

Arthur, in his second year as Rigotamos or high king, is establishing and expanding his power base and securing a better life for his people.  When an opportunity arises to consolidate his power and seal his position through an alliance with a powerful northern kingdom, Arthur decides to marry the Christian leader’s young daughter, Gwyneira. 

However, he is greatly saddened that he has to set aside his love for Guinevere.  Malgwyn is concerned about the wisdom of this action.  He is also concerned about another provocative act initiated by his king.  Arthur has decided to remove the head of Bran which is a symbol of protection to the local people residing near Londinium and an important icon to the Druids. Arthur’s rivals and the still-powerful Druids oppose his plans to unite the country and expand Christianity to the people.

Malgwyn is sent to bring the bride-to-be, her family, and entourage home in a journey filled with danger and discord.  During the journey and after their return, several ghastly murders of innocent young women that appear to be ritual sacrifices occur.  Disastrously, this includes Gwyneira shortly after the wedding ceremony.  Suspicious actions and clues left by several of the story’s characters provide the identities for the suspect list. Unfortunately, both Guiinevere and Malgwyn’s own companion, Ygerne, are on this list.

What is the motive?  Has Arthur displeased the Pagan gods?  Have his rivals decided to completely discredit him and seek his overthrow? Is it jealousy?  Malgwyn must quickly solve the murders before loved ones are put to death, a major alliance broken, and havoc overtakes the kingdom. He must expose the murderer while dealing with Pagan superstitions, cunning rivalry, and political dissent.  Fully utilizing his wily and crafty investigative skills, Malgwyn, assisted by a few reluctant allies, devises a plan to catch the killer.  

The legend of King Arthur, brimming with facts, fantasies, myths, and fiction, provides the basis for many stories.  Tony Hays has given us a fascinating and enjoyable tale encompassing these elements.  It is so well written that I believed “I was there” and transported back in time to Arthur’s Britain.  The influences of things Roman, Pagan, Christian, the customs, slavery, superstitions, etc. were blended and woven into the story.  

The characters are believable, colorful, and intriguing. The actions and clues depicted by the suspects and rivals provide readers with just enough information to keep us riveted.

Every one of us should have a Malgwyn in our lives.  He’s a formidable warrior and trustworthy advisor who possesses wisdom, common sense, and acute mental prowess. He understands human nature and the motives behind people’s actions (except for a few humorous situations involving maledom’s typical lack of understanding the wiles and minds of women folk).  He’s also a shrewd investigator (I could have really utilized his skills and abilities when I was a private investigator) with a knack for solving crimes.  

Working his way through twisting plots and subplots and an array of suspects, the cunning Malgwyn outmaneuvers the bad guys.  It takes the trickiness of the final trap with a few of its “in the nick of time” moments to identify and catch the real killer so that we are brought to an exciting and most satisfying conclusion.  In the end, broken hearts are mended, order and power are secured, and Arthur’s kingdom lives on.

This book is a must read for mystery/murder lovers who enjoy historical settings!  Tony Hays has written his way onto my top authors list!


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Harvee said...

I enjoyed this book, the only one in the series I've read. Found the historical setting very interesting, though I thought the murders were a bit too graphic in the descriptions!
Harvee/Book Dilettante

A.F. Heart said...

Thank you very much for that warning Harvee. Important to note for those who may want to read this.

Thanks for the feedback!

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