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Adelia Aguilar, Mistress of the Art of Death, has been summoned by King Henry II to perform what seems an impossible task. A dying monk at Glastonbury Abbey has seen a vision during a horrendous earthquake and fire, a sight which he believes is the burial of King Arthur and his Queen Guinevere. A drunken, womanizing ex-monk and bard holds the secret for many years before he saves his life by revealing it to King Henry. For this King such a vision spells disaster as his Welsh enemy believe that King Arthur is not dead but awaiting the perfect time to return and heal England and Wales. Indeed, as Adelia is to discover, vestiges of the Dark Ages loom large at Glastonbury and its neighbor and competitor Wells. Her examination of the burial remains will determine the future of the abbey, its occupants, the town to be rebuilt to support the abbey, the welfare of an inn and most of all the dreams of a nation!
Adelia was traveling in that direction anyway with her good friend, Emma, whose bastard son is the legitimate heir of the Wolvercote estate. Both women have something in common, giving birth to a child whose father refuses to acknowledge his paternity because of the call of church and state respectively. It's a hard world for such women and children, in a feudal age when class distinctions rule the day and only the word of a King can change the fortunes and future of all concerned.
Adelia, torn by the disappearance of Emma who proceeded her into the area, arrives and begins to find numerous bodies, secrets galore about residents who have committed unspeakable crimes for supposedly innocent and well-intentioned reasons. The pages fly for the reader as Adelia and her Arab helper, Mansur, find inexplicable evidence of more than just the Arthurian legend and become the target of numerous criminals who seek to murder Adelia. But criminals in this world know the high price of faithfulness, and Adelia's sense of honor, truth and justice help her transcend the most fearful and life-threatening debacles within homes, the gloomy forest and a leper's island.
Grave Goods is a well-written, thrilling read that is well-researched and tautly plotted with fascinating characters and events!
Kudos to Ms. Franklin on this splendid read!
Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on March 28, 2009