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Customer Review

107 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The finale is horrifyingly tense, 25 April 2010
This review is from: The Bones of Avalon (The John Dee Papers) (Hardcover)
It was only a matter of time before Phil Rickman got his teeth into Glastonbury. The mystical Isle of Avalon was an obvious target for Britain's master of creepy tales and he has once again written a superlative book.
This 16th century tale is very different from his `Merrily Watkin' series of great renown, though his gift of walking the tight-rope between sober fact and the supernatural is similarly employed. I know Phil had reservations about moving from contemporary fiction to the historical, but he has pulled it off in great style.
A reviewer has the constant problem of not being able to divulge too much of the plot and especially the dénouement, which inhibits a rational description of the story, but basically it is a first-person account by Dr John Dee, the mystical, scientific astronomer-astrologist of the Virgin Queen, as she was incorrectly described. Much of the story is based on fact - or at least, the factual accounts of characters, places and times are used to weave a complex story worthy of John le Carre's espionage books, with a wealth of obscure events being drawn together, when all is explained. In 1560, the young Elizabeth sends Dee to Glastonbury to seek the bones of King Arthur, which were turfed out of the marble tomb in the Abbey at the Dissolution twenty years earlier. She has been haunted by dreams of her mother Anne Boleyn, beheaded by her father and a cryptic message suggests that by kissing the bones, this malign spirit might be exorcised.
In Glastonbury, Dee falls in love with the woman doctor who treats his companion Robert Dudley, the queen's lover, but finds that the town has become a tortured place, under the thumb of a former monk from the abbey, who has turned Protestant and become a harsh Justice of the Peace. The bones become central to the plot and the finale is horrifyingly tense, in true Rickman fashion.
The book may not attract such a wide appeal as the Merrily series, as it is a one-off, so can hardly gather a similar fan-base. It is a harder read, and without wanting to sound patronising, is more academic and cerebral in content. For those with a historic bent, it is fascinating and informative about the cruel machinations that went on during and after King Henry's reign, with Popish plots and counterplots leading to innumerable hangings and burnings in the tug-of-war over religion. For Glastonbury addicts, it will consolidate their obsession with this extraordinary place. After reading this book, I will never be able to climb the Tor again without looking apprehensively over my shoulder!

Bernard Knight ex Home Office Pathologist and author of the highly acclaimed Crowner John series
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Apr 2010 15:37:10 BDT
A says:
This is actually the 4th time Phil has got his teeth into Glastonbury. The first time was The Chalice, and then the theme from this book was revisited in the first of his 2 books written for young people, under the name Thom Madley.
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