cover image The Beloved Dead

The Beloved Dead

Tony Hays, Forge, $25.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2628-7

Hayes merges a suspenseful serial killer story line with a persuasive recreation of fifth-century Britain in his superior third Arthurian mystery (after 2010's The Divine Sacrifice). Arthur ap Uther, "the Rigotamos, the High King of all Britannia," who's preparing for a politically expedient marriage, dispatches his chief adviser, Malgwyn ap Cuneglas, to escort his bride-to-be, Gwyneira, and her father, Aircol, back to Arthur's stronghold. On the way, Malgwyn gets caught up in the search for a savage murderer, who sexually abuses young girls before slitting their throats. The investigator has to wonder whether the killings, which reawaken painful memories from his own past, are aimed at destabilizing Arthur's authority, perpetually under threat from envious rivals. That Arthur remains in love with Malgwyn's admirable cousin, Guinevere, only exacerbates tension between Malgwyn and the legendary king, who emerges as a plausible flesh-and-blood ruler. Both Arthur fans and historical whodunit devotees will be more than satisfied. (Apr.)