The Lancelot Murders

Saturday, March 5, 2011
Fantasy/Murder mystery by J.M.C. Blair

If this book is any example, the legend of Arthur is undergoing some considerable rewriting nowadays.
The Lancelot Murders introduces us to the legendary characters with more human failings than were ever seen in the original legends:
* An increasingly disillusioned Arthur tends to drink too much.
* Guenevere, who is a non-stop schemer and plotter (mostly plotting to yank the throne out from under her estranged husband) is also shown as someone who likes her men BIG and DUMB ...
* and this leads us to Lancelot, who appears to have the I.Q. of a fig.
Blair's Merlin -- my favourite character in the book -- is very similar to the Merlin in Walt Disney's Sword in the Stone: grumpy but shrewd and somebody you wouldn't hesitate to go to with a problem.
And there is no magic -- not a smidgen -- in this version of the legend.
Blair's Merlin is a scholar and researcher, seeking to build on the knowledge of ancient civilizations, who gets increasingly annoyed when people refer to him as a great wizard or sorcerer.
I had some doubts about whether this book belonged in this blog. However, the Arthurian legend as a whole almost qualifies as a fantasy, as historians and interested laypersons have squabbled for decades over whether he really existed and if so, who was he?
So between that ... and the rather startling anomalies in the story ... I figured it fit nicely in here.
As for startling anomalies ... at the beginning of the story, Arthur is advised that a messenger has arrived carrying mail.
Then one of the commanders of the guards refers to an 'intelligence report.'
Come again? Is there some Arthurian version of the CIA here?
Also note that the commander in question is a woman.
However, the author makes no claims that this is even remotely historically accurate. A different author, Peter Telep, in the introduction to one of his books, says the Arthurian legend contains anachronisms and contradictions that are maddening to authors.
Blair takes advantage of this to give us a lightweight retelling of the legend with Merlin as a Dark Ages Sherlock. Merlin alone makes it well worth reading, but if you can get past the out-of-time oddities it's a fun read overall.


{ Vanessa's Input } at: March 22, 2011 at 6:55 PM said...

Mona, I must admit I am not a huge fan of these types of novels but what I love about your blog is how passionate you are about them and how you make it easy for people like me to decide if they would be interested in the novel or not!

{ Mona } at: March 23, 2011 at 7:54 AM said...

Thanks, Vanessa! I do love reading -- always have -- and at the moment I really like this genre.

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