The third volume in a successful British historical criminal-investigation series sees its heroine attempting to authenticate the bones of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.
Glastonbury, ancient abbey and possible site of Avalon, where, myth suggests, the once and future king Arthur rests, awaiting his return, is the setting for Franklin’s latest (The Serpent’s Tale, 2008, etc.) smartly paced and neatly delivered 12th-century Adelia mystery featuring an Italian-born doctor unique in her forensic and healing abilities. Having assisted King Henry II before, she is now commissioned by him again to examine the two bodies, one male, one female, found in a coffin in a Glastonbury graveyard and to establish as far as possible that these are Arthur’s remains, in order to suppress Welsh hopes that the ancient king will come again to lead their rebellions. An occasionally ragged web of subplots involving the disappearance of Adelia’s friend Lady Wolvercote, the identity of the man who burned down Glastonbury Abbey, a savage robber named Wolf, the mad innkeeper’s wife and a son murdered by his own father tends to dominate the pages and tip the book’s balance to include more action and less detection. Adelia, a rationalist and modernist with opinions on pacifism and contraception, also sets aside some of her logic when her ex-lover, the Bishop of St. Albans, reappears and wins her heart once more. A long denouement ties up most loose ends while leaving the door open for volume four.
A well-researched, colorful, sometimes comical and often engaging mystery, although the series is beginning to show more signs of familiarity than freshness.