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WesternSFA
The Avalon Chanter
by Lillian Stewart Carl
A Jean Fairbairn-Alasdair Cameron Mystery
Five Star Publishing, 2013, $25.95, 329pp
Release Date: January 22, 2014
Although classified as a mystery, there are supernatural and fantastic elements which qualify this story, and this series, as SF.

Professor Maggie Lauder has been researching the archaeological roots of the Arthurian legend, and may have found the burial place of Queen Gwenevere, but her discovery is delayed, and marred, when the excavation uncovers a much more modern corpse.

Jean Fairburn, reporter for the Great Scot, and Alasdair Cameron, retired Chief Inspector, have traveled to Farnaby Island to attend the excavation, and to hear some first rate music. Maggie’s parents, Wat and Elaine, had founded a school of music decades ago, to preserve and pass on the traditional music of Scotland , Ireland , and England . Their school had been another Camelot – right down to the romantic triangles. Could the body belong to Thomas Seaton, a musician who went missing forty years ago after a hushed up scandal involving Elaine?

Both Jean and Alasdair are sensitive to the otherworldly presences of ghosts; too bad their perceptions are not admissible evidence. So the detective work has to be done the old-fashioned way. Unfortunately, murder means calling in Inspector Grinsell, the rudest, meanest, nastiest thing in a uniform. To make matters worse, Grinsell already has a grudge against Maggie, and he cannot contain his glee at this opportunity to drag her, her family, and her friends through the mud.

Does music still have the power to soothe the savage beast, or ravaged breast? As secrets are uncovered, and specters old and new walk the human pathways of Farnaby, Jean and Alasdair find their faith in their friends, their professions, and each other tested to the limit.

This is a wonderful book. Carl is a fantastic writer, the sort who drops verbal gems on nearly every page. Here’s an example: “You know how much I love a reality-mythology smackdown.” and, “Grinsell again assumed the power position, legs spread, shoulders braced beneath the weight of their chips.” As for the best of them, the ones that stop you cold while your brain adjusts, I leave those for readers to find for themselves. Was there a literary fairy godmother at her christening? Or perhaps she did a kindness to a disguised fae, and this genius was her reward. Or maybe it’s the result of work, or painstaking craftsmanship and a really good writers’ group. In any case, I am delighted to have discovered this series, which starts with The Secret Portrait. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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