The Beloved Dead
King Arthur is setting aside Guinevere, his lover of ten years, to make a political match with the daughter of King Aircol, hoping to solidify the alliance with this northern monarch. Our hero, Malgwyn ap Cuneglas, a member of Arthur’s consilium and one-armed veteran of his wars, is sent to fetch the young lady. Gruesome murders of the daughters of local chieftains, however, follow the entourage across Britain. Malgwyn, a relative of Guinevere, with much to lose in the royal match, becomes a prisoner of Mordred in Ynys-witrin in the Summerlands and risks his own love, Ygerne, in his pursuit of the truth of this.
In this third title of the mysteries with sleuth Malgwyn, Hays succeeds where few mid-series novelists do. I was involved with the story from the start, never confused by characters I should have met in earlier books I hadn’t read. The world where St. Patrick has just died and Saxons smell bad comes to well-drawn life. The familiar tales of the Queen of the Summerlands, Bran’s head, Merlin, and so on, seem perfect history in this recreation. Only Malgwyn’s missing arm magically seeming present in a few places, as when he swings easily down from a horse, briefly threw me off.