Book Reviews: Fatal Feast by Jay Ruud and The Iron Sickle by Martin Limon

Fatal FeastFatal Feast
A Merlin Mystery
Jay Ruud
Five Star, January 2015
ISBN 978-1-4328-2987-2
Hardcover

Author Jay Rudd gives the reader a different twist in this tale of murder and revenge. Set in Camelot, at King Arthur’s court, Queen Guenivere appears to have poisoned one of her dinner guests. But why would the queen do such a thing? How did she manage it? It doesn’t make sense, yet with the accusation made Guenivere faces death by burning if found guilty.

King Arthur hands Gildas, the queen’s young page, the job of rousting Merlin the magician out of his cave to get to the bottom of things. “Prove the queen’s innocence,” he says.

Together, Merlin and Gildas have their work cut out for them in clearing the queen’s name before it’s too late. You see, finding a champion to defend Guenivere’s honor is a thankless task indeed. Ruthless retribution hides under the guise of courtly manners and false loyalties as the two detectives suspect everyone at the table at one time or another.

A fine twist towards the end makes sense of a plot that sometimes seems a little confusing. Many of the characters have similar names, making it hard to keep track of how they all figure in the case. A welcome dash of humor brings the characters, especially Gildas, to life. Anachronisms scattered here and there actually add to the story.

The queen? Well, Guenivere is the stuff of legend, is she not?

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2015.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

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The Iron SickleThe Iron Sickle
A Sueno and Bascom Investigation #9
Martin Limon
Soho Crime, June 2015
ISBN: 978-1-61695-568-7
Trade Paperback

Twenty years after the truce brought hostilities to an end on the Korean peninsula, the head of the 8th United States Army Claims Office in Seoul is murdered when a Korean man slices his throat with a small iron sickle, bringing in CID agents George Sueno and Ernie Bascom to investigate.  The two have demonstrated in previous novels that they irreverently disobey orders but somehow achieve results.

In this case, they are stonewalled by both the Americans and Koreans, both of whom apparently do not wish the two to solve it.  It seems there is a dirty secret buried and the agents have to steal clues to guide their investigation.

The author’s novels ring with authenticity gained from firsthand knowledge.  He served 20 years in the Army, ten of them in Korea.  As a result, the sights and sounds provide the reader with the real flavor of the city, the taste of foods, the nights filled with bars, drinks and sex.  And, more important, the rigidness of the Army bureaucracy.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2015.

Book Review: The Avalon Chanter by Lillian Stewart Carl

The Avalon ChanterThe Avalon Chanter
Lillian Stewart Carl
Five Star, January 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4328-2804-2
Hardcover

I’ve never been a fan of the supernatural or paranormal novel. Too many times, in my reading experience, the authors allow defiance of corporal laws of physics to surmount plot difficulties or intellectual quandaries to be solved by the convenient appearance of an apparition. That being said, I have no difficulty believing in spirits or strange manifestations and in this novel, author Carl may have converted me.

In the English world there is hardly another set of legends that can match those of the Authurian. Sir Lancelot, King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Merlin and Mordred. Add the waves of religious recruitment and conversions. Then add the brooding, unforgiving land, peopled by hardy residents who remain close to the land and all that means.

To the legendary island of Small Farnaby off the coast of Northumberland comes American writer Jean Fairbairn with her retired Scot policeman, Alasdair Cameron. She is drawn there by a native-born archeologist who is planning to open a tomb in a medieval chapel and thereby prove her contention that the little island could very well be the Avalon of legend and thus solve some of England’s most enduring historical questions. When the tomb is opened, however, mysteries only deepen. Murder, chicanery, deep passions all rise from past to present and Jean Fairbairn’s husband is forced out of retirement to take control of an isolated police investigation.

The novel is beautifully written and whether you believe the ethereal singing of ancient Priory nuns is real or mere wisps from the fog-shrouded sea only enhances the brooding atmosphere of danger that pervades the pages of this novel. The family complications and old passions are complicated and carefully worked out to logical conclusions so that in the end, the resolution to mystery and murder is solidly satisfying. An  excellent novel that comes strongly recommended.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2013.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.