Fatal Feast (Merlin Mystery)
by Jay Ruud
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781432829872
Date: 11 February 2015 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Fatal Feast by Jay Ruud is a young adult mystery set in Arthurian times featuring the young page Gildas and Merlin as they investigate the murder of an Irish knight who was no friend of Queen Guinevere. Clues are few and Merlin's skills are needed to uncover the plot, save the queen, and punish the guilty. However, the search carries its own dangers and places both Merlin and Gildas in jeopardy.
When an Irish knight who dislikes Queen Guinevere dies suddenly at a feast given by her, suspicion immediately falls on Guinevere because she offered him an apple that was apparently poisoned. King Arthur has no choice except to imprison his queen while the crime is investigated. Fearing for her life, the king enlists the help of her young page Gildas. King Arthur asks him to beg Merlin to come to her aid.
At first Merlin refuses to help until Gildas tells him it is a great puzzle that only he can solve. Merlin investigates the scene and identifies at least one knight knowledgeable about poisons. Lancelot has gone to France and cannot defend the queen as her champion on the field of honor. The queen doubts any other knight can succeed to defeat the accuser knight.
Merlin and Gildas investigations are detailed and take time. Meanwhile, the offended knight is pushing for a test of arms to prove Guinevere's guilt.
Ruud likes detailed descriptions and intellectual puzzles. An academic, he has a number of scholarly works to his credit. This is the first Merlin mystery with others to follow. The large cast of characters makes remembering everyone difficult. He uses enough red herrings to keep the villain's identity in doubt. The exciting end will satisfy readers as will the solution to the mystery.