The Buried Cross
Glastonbury 1190. Fire has destroyed Glastonbury’s famous cathedral. Among those affected are Hereward and Gwyneth Mason, aged 12 and 13. Their father, innkeeper of the Crown, relies on visiting pilgrims for his livelihood and the future is looking grim. Then two ancient skeletons are discovered in the cathedral ruins, together with a cross proclaiming them to be King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. For Abbot Henry it is a miracle; the bones should bring back the visitors.
In spite of the abbot’s top security, the skeletons and cross disappear. Father Godfrey, visiting from the rival cathedral of Wells, is a prime suspect. But the travelling merchant Wasim Kharab’s behaviour needs explaining, too. And what about the surly shopkeeper Rhys Freeman? Hereward and Gwyneth are determined to solve the mystery.
This is the first in the Abbey Mysteries series and the author emphasises the importance of holy relics to the mediaeval mind, not to mention their economic benefits: all the citizens of Glastonbury rely on the cathedral in one way or another. The story also examines the wider context: Henry II, who financially supported the re-building of the cathedral, has died. His son, King Richard, switches the money to support the crusades. The king’s exiled cousin, Henry of Truro, is another cause for concern: there are rumours of his return to nearby Wales. In this book, Henry is just a lurking presence, but the children will surely be involved in foiling his plots in a future book.
Caveats: the style is somewhat pedestrian; Hereward and Gwyneth behave like 21st century children – interrupting the abbey brothers in a very un-twelfth century way; and surely no respectable girl in 1190 would run about the town and countryside as Gwyneth does. For 9 plus. (EH)
If you want tension, drama, plot, suspicion and action, this is the book for you. Gweneth and Hereward are both strong characters and well-drawn. The plot is very original and strings you along. You suspect lots of people such as Godfrey de Massard, Rhys Freeman and any number of monks. I liked this book because it had a bit of everything and gave me lots to think about.
Medieval Glastonburycomes across very strongly. I would make the book better firstly by explaining what a few of the olden words meant and also by not changing the suspects every chapter. But I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. 8/10. (RB)
Oxford University Press
Early Medieval (to 1337)