I have recently become a fan of historical mysteries so when I was offered this book for review, I jumped at the chance. The beauty of this book is we get two historical eras for the price of one and our historical sleuths are real figures in history, from the art and literary worlds.
The mystery involves the death of a clergyman in the 19th century surrounding the disappearance of a holy relic which came from Glastonbury Abbey in the Tudor era, 16th century England. In it, we get the unlikely pairing of John Singer Sargent the famous painter and Violet Paget aka Vernon Lee, an author. Their rapport, stemming from being lifelong friends, is enjoyable and their methods for solving the mystery were quite interesting.
Not only do we get a mystery that keeps us turning the pages, we also get to experience the dissolution of the monasteries, wrought by Henry VIII, firsthand. In this case, Glastonbury Abbey, the renowned monastery so entrenched in Arthurian legend. The author has deftly written two eras of the past making the reader feel present the entire time and with the historical background left intact.
An enjoyable mystery which also gives us some history and so we learn something along the way. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys great historical fiction and mysteries combined. This being the first in a series, I look forward to continuing on with the adventures of Violet and John.
About the book
Publication Date: November 1, 2014
Sand Hill Review Press
Series: A John Singer Sargent/Violet Paget Mystery (Book One)
Genre: Historical Fiction/Historical Mystery
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.
Friends from the age of ten, Paget and Sargent frequently met in the popular European watering places and capitals, frequenting the same salons and drawing rooms in London, Rome, Paris, Florence, Venice, Vienna and Madrid. Both were possessed of keen minds and bohemian tendencies, unorthodox educations and outsized egos (especially Paget). Their instant, natural bonding led them to address each other as “Twin”, and they corresponded frequently when they were apart.
Henry James once described Violet Paget as having “the most formidable mind” of their times, and he was an active fan and patron of John Sargent, introducing him to London society and his own inner circles of literary and artistic genius.
Praise for The Spoils of Avalon
“An artist, a writer, a murder, a mysterious tome, a dissolving time, a crime, Arthurian legends, ancient saints books and bones. Burns’ prose drives and is sublime, with characters and settings that live on in your mind. This is an original historical mystery connecting the Age of Industry with the Age of Miracles.” – Stephanie Renée dos Santos, forthcoming novel: Cut From The Earth
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About the Author
Mary F. Burns is the author of PORTRAITS OF AN ARTIST (Sand Hill Review Press, February 2013), a member of and book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and a former member of the HNS Conference board of directors. A novella-length book, ISAAC AND ISHMAEL, is also being published by Sand Hill Review Press in 2014. Ms. Burns’ debut historical novel J-THE WOMAN WHO WROTE THE BIBLE was published in July 2010 by O-Books (John Hunt Publishers, UK). She has also written two cozy-village mysteries in a series titled The West Portal Mysteries (The Lucky Dog Lottery and The Tarot Card Murders).
Ms. Burns was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where she earned both Bachelors and Masters degrees in English, along with a high school teaching certificate. She relocated to San Francisco in 1976 where she now lives with her husband Stuart in the West Portal neighborhood. Ms. Burns has a law degree from Golden Gate University, has been president of her neighborhood association and is active in citywide issues. During most of her working career she was employed as a director of employee communications, public relations and issues management at various San Francisco Bay Area corporations, was an editor and manager of the Books on Tape department for Ignatius Press, and has managed her own communications/PR consulting business, producing written communications, websites and video productions for numerous corporate and non-profit clients.
Ms. Burns may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information please visit Mary Burns’s website. You can also connect with Mary on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, or read her blog posts at:
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