The Killing Way
Forge, Mar 31 2009, $24.95
In the fifth century after the Romans left Britannia, farmer Malgwyn ap Cuneglas loves his wife and child. However, when Saxons murder his spouse, he loses his grip on sanity. He leaves his daughter with his brother to join King Arthur’s legion in order to kill Saxons. Malgwyn becomes renowned as Mad Malgwyn with killing rages in battle until his arm is severed. He wants to die but Arthur saves his life and turns him into a scribe. Instead of enjoying life, he becomes a drunk, who hates the monarch for saving his life.
Someone kills peasant Eleonore slicing her apart and leaving her heart in the home of Arthur’s beloved former tutor and former advisor Merlin.. Although the evidence strongly points to Merlin as a mad murderer. Arthur rejects the concept. He orders Malgwyn to investigate, but before the one armed scribe can begin, a second homicide as brutal as the first occurs. The superstitious peasants believe Merlin used magic to kill the second female since he was incarcerated when she was killed. Finally a guard who witnessed Eleonore talking with a hooded person has vanished. As Malgwyn makes inquiries amidst anger and dissension, he concludes the motive is to keep Arthur from being crowned Rigotamo (High King).
Anyone who thought there can be no new spin to the Arthurian legend will need to revise that opinion as Tony Hays provides a refreshing radical twist with a terrific gritty fifth century Noir. Camelot does not exist; instead Britannia is a decaying dangerous place. Chivalry is nonexistent as backstabbers are everywhere. Arthur is pragmatic seeking power with the Saxons and Druids opposing him; Genevieve is a fallen nun who he loves but politically cannot marry. However, the tale belongs to its grim narrator Malgwyn who knows Britannia as a place where the broken Roman roads mirror broken lives. This is the powerful beginning of a Dark Ages mystery series.