The Avalon Chanter (Fairbairn / Cameron)
by Lillian Stewart Carl
Review by Gayle Surrette
Five Star Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781432828042
Date: 22 January 2014 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Jean Fairbairn and Alasdair Cameron mysteries, for the most part, take place in Scotland. While the mysteries themselves are well plotted, they are usually combined with the historical significance of the area in which the crime took place. The characters are well drawn and the situations believable.
In The Avalon Chanter, Jean has been requested to attend the opening of a tomb on Farnaby Island, which can only be reached by ferry, and is just off the coast of Northumberland. Jean's hoping to get a good story for her magazine. Alasdair is coming along because some friends of theirs will be taking part at a concert put on by the students and faculty of the island's music school.
Maggie Lauder, the archaeologist who found the tomb, has a checkered past. A native of the island, she returned to care for her mother who's suffering from dementia. While at college, Maggie was accused of murder and, though she was acquitted of the crime, there are many who believe she was guilty. Her mother had a promising career before she went off the deep end trying to prove that their island was actually related to King Arthur and Camelot. There's much speculation that perhaps Maggie may be too anxious to make a discover, especially since she's been essentially digging in her own backyard.
Jean and Alastair arrive at the island to find that the tomb opening has been cancelled and the reporters who had already arrived got a history lesson instead. When they arrive at Maggie's dig they find that she'd called off the opening because she'd peeked and found a body -- one that isn't anywhere near being old enough to qualify as ancient.
The island has no resident police and, until someone can arrive from the mainland, Alasdair, even though he's retired from the force, is the senior ranking officer. His taking over until the police arrive causes a bit of friction between Jean and Alasdair. When help arrives, the tension builds as there's some history with the new officer and Maggie Lauder's past brush with the law.
Once you get into the book a few pages it's difficult to put down. The exposition regarding the history of Arthur's legend and facts are carefully sprinkled in to avoid large informational dumps and simply add to the details of the dig and its historical importance. The characters are realistic and you care about them and their lives. The more books I read featuring Jean Fairbairn and Alasdair Cameron, the more I appreciate the ability of Carl to meld mystery with history and keep me interested, involved, and turning the pages to find out what happens next.