Authors Showcase: Murder Now and Then
May 4, 2013
The Book: The Forgotten Queen
The Author: Annette Mackey
The Story: Avalon has long been considered the traditional place of Arthur’s burial. But what if that place was actually named after someone? As an infant, Avalon is stripped of beauty so that all that remains are her dramatic green eyes. She is taught from birth that Arthur is her destiny.
Out of curiosity she watches him in the magical waters of the lake and finds it impossible not to fall in love–and yet he is the king. She has nothing to offer but a pure heart. And so with the future of Camelot at stake, Arthur turns his attention toward the politically strategic Princess Guinevere and makes her his queen. In this exciting retelling of Camelot, Arthur struggles against the forces of evil until he reigns supreme, only to discover that his closest friend, Lancelot, is having an affair with his wife.
Upon discovery, Camelot is forced to the brink of destruction. It’s then that Arthur realizes what a fool he has been. Broken and alone, shamed before the entire kingdom, Avalon comes back into his life. With her he finds the kind of passion that he has so long sought. Raised in the shadows, subservient to the Lady of the Lake, Avalon rises above it all to become the true queen of Camelot.
She is the forgotten queen … and the sole bearer of Arthur’s heart. Full of unexpected twists and turns, action, suspense, treachery, and deceit, “The Forgotten Queen” will tear at your heartstrings until the very satisfying ending.
Review by The Kindle Book Review: The Forgotten Queen is a delightful and clever retelling of the legend of King Arthur. It opens at the birth of Avalon in the magic waters of the lake. Her mother, Lady Vivien (the Lady of the Lake) is horrified at the beauty of her newborn and ‘dispells’ the majority of it, with Avalon’s father, Merlin, helplessly looking on. Lady Vivien believes excessive beauty to be a curse that would get in the way of Avalon’s destiny. And Lady Vivien will do anything to bring Avalon’s destiny about – even murder – in her bid to bind both Avalon and the newly crowned King Arthur to the sword Excaliber.
Eleven years later, and against Lady Vivien’s advice, Arthur negotiates with Leodegrance, King of Carmelide, for the hand of his daughter, Guinevere. Guinevere is less than keen, but she has no choice, despite being in love with Arthur’s best friend, Lancelot. When she makes her feelings forcefully clear, Arthur realises the situation is impossible and reneges on the arrangement, unknowing that the future of Camelot is at stake.
Later, Guinevere realises that her father will insist she marries a king – Lancelot is of no consequence politically. If Guinevere cannot persuade Arthur to renew his proposal, she will be forced to marry the cruel tyrant, Malegeant.
Camelot has more powerful enemies than Malegeant, however. Arthur’s adopted sister, Morgana, and her son Mordred want revenge on Camelot. When Morgana became pregnant, Uther, her guardian and supposed protector, banished her. Now they want Camelot’s throne. But Lady Vivien will go to any lengths to ensure her visions of Avalon and Arthur’s futures come to pass.
A thoroughly enjoyable read revisiting the legend of King Arthur, but with a clever twist or two along the way, The Forgotten Queen has it all: romance, forbidden love, adventure, treachery, intrigue, magic, war and redemption, and is a perfect piece of escapism.
The Book: Payback
The Author: Mar Preston
The Story: A forest fire burning in the mountains surrounding a remote California village interrupts the Oktoberfest celebration, followed by the discovery of the mayor who has been beheaded. Sheriff’s Detective Dex Stafford concludes everybody hated the mayor for different and very good reasons, but nobody will talk. His nerves fraying, Stafford finds himself involved with his partner’s hysterical daughter, at a time when he fears his partner is on the take. His mother moves in with him, bringing a Jack Russell who hates him, and stories about his father he doesn’t want to hear.
Patrol Officer Holly Seabright of the village’s security force becomes a prickly ally in uncovering the hints and whispers of something much worse than the murder of the mayor. Stafford pools resources with the attractive and smart patrol officer on a twisted trail of discovery as winter and the big snows shut down the town. A killer beyond his imagining haunts the town. Sometime soon, unless he can stop it, there will be another death, and then still another.
Review by Elizabeth Lockhart: Mar Preston’s Payback is an attractive, skillfully done melding of an American police procedural story with an English village mystery. It is set in a village closely but not slavishly modeled on an actual settlement in the mountains at the dividing point between Southern and Central California. The beauty of the area and the remote tranquility of the settlement come through strongly and provide a good contrast with the sleazy, seamy side of human life there that naturally predominates in a crime story. The language is straightforward and natural, in both narrative and dialogue; the dialogue is perhaps slanted somewhat toward the rough conventions of language in mystery novels ever since Hammett and Chandler.
The story is told from a double perspective, not relying on the usual primary detective accompanied by a less acute subordinate. City-based county detective Dex Stafford is rather in the classic American mold of the big good-looking hard-boiled or at least undemonstrative detective. His opposite number is Holly Seabright, a member of the village’s security patrol. The perspective shifts back and forth between the two, with about equal space and emphasis given to each person and each organization. The two investigators are at first antagonistic but eventually come together, which though it is inevitable gives the reader a sense of satisfaction when it finally happens.
It is notable that the author dispenses with the great old unfair trick of concealing from the reader what the main detective has already figured out but at crucial points withholds, not only from the the reader but even from his partner. Instead, excerpts from dialogue of the still unidentified perpetrators dot the book at intervals, at first mysterious but cumulatively telling us just about all we need to know as the picture gradually takes shape. A normally attentive reader can keep up with the police and even sometimes anticipate them, for, to the book’s credit, they are people with no preternatural sleuthing gifts, in addition to having other things to do in their lives besides solving this particular mystery. It’s a good way to proceed, for most readers profit more from sharing the experience of the investigators than from racking their brains over who did it.
The book is on very substantial paper and lies flat without too much trouble. The pages are unobtrusively designed, not drawing attention to the design itself but making reading easy with a simple arrangement in a classic, sizable font. Compared to many productions, there is even a subtle sense of lavishness, especially in having all chapters begin on a recto page in the grand old manner, which involves leaving many pages empty and removes any flavor of hurry or crowding.