The Divine Sacrifice

Written by Tony Hays

This is the second novel in a series of mysteries set in King Arthur’s Britain during the 5th century. In The Killing Way Malgwyn, a soldier who lost an arm in battle, demonstrated a remarkable talent for solving mysteries, and now he serves Arthur as a counsellor. His abilities are called upon again when an aged monk is found dead at the abbey in Ynys-witrin (Glastonbury). His death, Malgwyn discovers, was not from natural causes, but this proves to be but one thread in a complex web of deceit and violence. Painstakingly, he unravels the threads, one by one, discovering not just murder, but Pelagian heresy and ruthless politics in the Church; forgery, treason and rebellion in the state; and, ultimately, the long-concealed truth behind a rape and murder that took place long ago.

The crowded cast of characters includes figures drawn not only from Arthurian tradition, like Bedevere, Guinevere, and Arthur himself, but also history, like Gildas, the Pelagian Agricola, and (Saint) Patrick. There is, perhaps, rather too much going on; but the author takes considerable pains to create a credible Dark Age world, and life is often inconveniently complicated. Moreover, Malgwyn is an interesting and sympathetic hero: bedevilled by guilt and self-doubts as a result of his past behaviour, he doggedly struggles to uncover the truth before disaster strikes. Recommended.