A review of The Spoils of Avalon by Mary F. Burns

Know ye not then the Riddling of the Bards?
"Confusion, and illusion, and relation,
Elusion, and occasion, and evasion"?
 -Idylls of the King

The death of a humble clergyman in 1877 leads amateur sleuths Violet Paget and John Singer Sargent into a medieval world of saints and kings-including the legendary Arthur-as they follow a trail of relics and antiquities lost since the destruction of Glastonbury Abbey in 1539. Written in alternating chapters between the two time periods, The Spoils of Avalon creates a sparkling, magical mystery that bridges the gap between two worlds that could hardly be more different-the industrialized, Darwinian, materialistic Victorian Age and the agricultural, faith-infused life of a medieval abbey on the brink of violent change at the hands of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell. First in a new series of historical mysteries, The Spoils of Avalon introduces two unlikely detectives and life-long friends-beginning as young people on the verge of making their names famous for the next several decades throughout Europe and America: the brilliant and brittle Violet Paget, known as the writer Vernon Lee, and the talented, genial portrait painter John Singer Sargent.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 31st 2014 by Sand Hill Review Press 
ISBN 1937818284 (ISBN13: 9781937818289)

The Spoils of Avalon is a different type of historical mystery covering two separate eras with chapters jumping from sixteenth century Arthurian themed Tudor England to nineteenth century Victorian England. The difference lies in the use of dual narrators and main characters, real life artistic figures John Singer Sargent and his friend author Violet Paget.

Who could have ever imagined that the arrival of a letter could set into place a complex faith driven murder mystery that Sargent and Paget are determined to solve. In order to do this they must leave London for the north of England, to visit the letter’s author, her uncle, Mr. Crickley, a clergyman. His letter mentions an interesting find he has made but they will never know more than that for when they arrive he is found dead. Or was he murdered for what he has discovered?

The mystery unfolds between alternating chapters taking the reader on a spiritual and faith based journey where moral questions lie behind every corner and within every hand written scroll and ink well dipped pen to paper. The reader will be taken to the world of the legendary King Arthur involving holy relics during the dissolution of the monasteries and the destruction of Glastonbury Abbey by Henry VIIIs Tudor England. Also present is the brilliant use of the legend of Joseph of Arimathea who traveled to England after the death of Jesus Christ. You will meet Thomas Cromwell, so hold on to your hats my friends.

Come on this very different adventure. It will keep you guessing and wanting to read on.  I enjoyed the presence of the artists taking the lead to help solve this mystery. I thought it was a very good touch. The Spoils of Avalon is different but it is mostly Arthurian based where the sixteenth century storyline does take precedence. It is very religious in subtext and if you are more interested in the Victorian 1877 storyline, there aren’t that many chapters focused in the nineteenth century because the focus drifts back to the legend of King Arthur and the reasons for the uncle’s murder connected to Victorian England. I did enjoy very much the chapter headings of quotations taken largely from Idylls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. 
If you live in the U.S., Amazon  and if you live in the U.K,  Amazon UK


Kevin Marsh said…
Hello Kimberly,

This sounds like an interesting book. I like the way each chapter jumps from different time zones.
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Kevin,

Yes, the chapters jum and it was very easy to follow the storylines.
Thanks so much for stopping by!