The Excalibur Murders: A Merlin Investigation
by J.M.C. Blair
Review by Mary McElveen
Berkley Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425222539
Date: 01 July 2008 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
All is not well in Camelot. In the midst of the celebration of a successful quest by Sir Percival for the Stone of Bran, the Stone itself is stolen, along with Excalibur. Worse yet, one of Arthur's young squires is brutally murdered, and all Camelot is seized by suspicion, distrust and fear.
Blair's Camelot is not the fairytale kingdom we know. In the first of this new series, Arthur and Guinevere are estranged, and Guinevere seeks to overthrow Arthur's struggling young kingdom with the help of her father, the French king, and the doltish Lancelot. Arthur's knights, not known for their thinking skills, are commanded by Mark of Cornwall, who also aspires to the throne. Add in Morgan Le Fay, who wants to restore the old religion to Britain, her son Mordred, and King Pellenore who madly chases dragons round the castle halls, and Arthur has his hands full.
Amidst all the scheming and political maneuvering, Merlin, as the king's only trusted advisor, is deputized to find the murderer, with the assistance of the young maiden Nimue, who is masquerading as his apprentice, Colin.
As winter bears down on the countryside, Merlin investigates, using the extensive knowledge that has led Arthur's followers to call him "wizard". His non-magical solution is based on dogged pursuit of suspects, logical analysis of the facts, and a final staged confrontation that rivals Hercule Poirot. Blair manages to put a few new twists on the Arthurian legend, and uses them to good advantage in producing a plot that keeps the reader guessing till the final chapter.