King Arthur’s Bones

Written by The Medieval Murderers
Review by Ray Thompson

This is an anthology of mystery novellas by the writing team of Michael Jecks, Susanna Gregory, Bernard Knight, Ian Morson, and Philip Gooden, all in their own right highly successful authors of historical mystery series. Although set at successive time periods, as the title proclaims the plots are connected by King Arthur’s bones, reportedly excavated at Glastonbury Abbey in 1191. In his prologue, Gooden describes how, after a group of Welsh patriots steal the bones from the abbey, the abbot arranges their replacement with others from the grave site. Thereafter, each novella involves the solution of murders linked in some way or other to the (genuine) bones—three during the Middle Ages, one in the seventeenth century, and one in the nineteenth—before Knight’s epilogue concludes with their recovery during a modern archaeological dig in London.

As one would expect, the novellas are well written, presenting both a credible historical setting and fascinating insights into human nature as it confronts difficult challenges. The animosity between the English and Welsh is a recurrent motif, as are the hardships of life for ordinary people in the past, but these are balanced by the presence of attractive and sympathetic characters: despite their disparate background, Gregory’s Welsh wife and English husband share a good working relationship as well as a loving one; Jecks’ two Anglo-Norman knights who serve as investigators are surprisingly shrewd and conscientious; Gooden’s Jacobean players are enjoyably cynical; and Morson’s lively Essex bawd displays an unexpected range of entertaining talents.

Warmly recommended to lovers of historical mysteries.