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All along the border...,
This review is from: The Heresy of Dr Dee (Hardcover)
The Bones of Avalon, introducing the Elizabethan court mystic and astrologer John Dee, was set firmly in the Somerset Levels and introduced us to the likeable character and his friend Lord Robert Dudley, favourite of the Queen. This time we see a somewhat disillusioned and impoverished Dr Dee travelling out to the Welsh Borders in search of a coveted `shewstone' (or scrying crystal), and thus far all seems pretty straightforward. However, nothing is quite as it seems in a Rickman novel and soon Dee and Dudley - rumoured to have murdered his wife and given the Queen a child - become drawn into a show trial for a local criminal with a dangerous glamour and staggeringly horrifying reputation. Is the trial all it seems, and for whose benefit is it being played out? Can the locals, or even the English, be trusted? Political and social cultures clash and merge along the border, that most mysterious of places; allegiances are formed and seemingly lost. Danger and a growing sense of menace and darkness pervade the novel as it moves deeper into the Welsh landscape. An abandoned holy well bearing the neglected statue of the Virgin, but of older and pagan origin, forms a memorable anchor around which revolve the unearthing of emasculated bodies, a priest who sees the devil's work in all he cannot explain, and the presence of a persecuted young woman whose gifted but mentally damaged brother can `find things' with apparent ease and no earthly guidance. Drawn to these captivating outcasts Dee discovers he wants to know more about his own Welsh ancestry and is forced to examine his own spiritual and political beliefs. And at the height of the action, Dudley suddenly disappears... Add into the mix the usual richly drawn characterizations of persons good and not so good, a flawlessly fluent writing style, the author's instinctive feel for the spirit of place and landscape, and some devious twists in the plot and we have classic Rickman fare - intelligent storyline, scrupulous research, rounded characterization and a building tension ending in one of the best final sentences I've read in some time. As with the first Dee book, repeated reading will be rewarded.