The Divine Sacrifice
by Tony Hays
Review by Harriet Klausner
Forge Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765319463
Date: 30 March 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In the eighty-first year from the Adventus Saxonum he lost a hand in combat, Malgwyn ap Cuneglas refuses to allow his handicap to keep him from being all he could be especially in support of the High King of Britannia Arthur ap Uther. In fact, King Arthut trusts Malfwyn for his sage advice and with his life.
He accompanies King Arthur and Sir Bedevere to Glastonbury Abbey where Brother Elafius died mysteriously. The Abbott asks Malgwyn to investigate as he knows the monarch's aide has a reputation for detecting skills and for successfully having solved crimes before (see The Killing Way). Malgwyn struggles with his inquiry until he finally realizes the monk died from a broken neck and he almost definitely was a murder victim. However, now that he has resolved how the Brother died, who killed him remains even more elusive and why. The homicide was brutal, which means it was a crime of passion in all likelihood. Determined and resolute, Malgwyn continues his probe seeking motive and opportunity.
Meanwhile King Arthur meets St. Patrick, who is in the area on church business. St. Patick is trying to end the growth in followers of what the Vatican has called the Pelagian Heresy. Arthur and Malgwyn find themselves caught up in the debate over whether original sin exists as the heretic followers believe. Adam is an example of sin but not inherited eternally; as God still encourages fully free will; thus the doctrine implies that a man will be allowed into heaven based on performing good deeds only. If not careful, Arthur may face a civil war; he depends on his top adviser besides Merlin to help him navigate these dangerous waters.
The second Malgwyn fifth century thriller is a great whodunit with of a powerful look at the times. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the interference to Arthur's rule by the divided church squabbles that make the tale so much fun. Besides the Original Sin debate, there is also an argument growing over priests' celibacy. Either religious argument and its supporters could derail Arthur's plans to unite Britannia under his rule. Thus he depends on Malgwyn for sound counseling at a time when a slight misstep could lead to revolt and civil war.
Whereas Merlin plays a minor role, meeting St. Patrick as the holy man weeding out heretics augments a strong sense of time and place. Additionally, the mystery showcases the intelligence of Malgwyn as well as the limitations of Dark Age forensics. The hero makes the tale worth reading as he investigates a case that could be a tragic accident or a brutal homicide. At the same time he offers sound advice to his liege working his way through a landmine of controversy. Told by Malgwyn in a first person perspective, fans of the Peter Tremayne great Sister Fidelma mysteries will want to read Tony Hays The Divine Sacrifice as the author adds a freshness to the Arthurian legend with a terrific historical thriller.