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The hill of bones is the latest novel written by the medieval murderers, they are a group of popular English medieval crime writers. This is the sixth book in the series and like all previous novels each separate story is linked to a core tale, the core of the book is set up by a short introductory section which introduces the linker. The linker is nearly always a moveable piece of medieval piece of kit such as a sword, strange stone but can be a location such as a haunted house or a troubled abbey. In this novel, we are introduced to Arthur who is just about to the beat back the invading Saxons at the battle of Badon Hill. This is a real battle but the site is unknown, all that is known about the battle is that the invading Saxons were beaten back under the stewardship of a powerful English warrior who is unnamed. The battle is believed to be somewhere near the city of Bath and the fictional account has the battle happening on a hill just outside the city which turns into the Hill of Bones of the title.
The medieval murderers are Bernhard Knight, Karen Maitland, Susanna Gregory, Ian Morson and Phillip Gooden, all have had success publishing murder mysteries under their own names. Knight, Maitland, Gooden and Gregory tend to be 12-14th century and Morson's novels are set in and around the plays of Shakespeare. The use of the novelists is strength and a weakness, the strengths are the stories are short and to the point usually lasting between 50 and 80 pages and have a nice finish. The weaknesses are the forced elements of the stories requiring introducing the linker piece to each story; in this case the linker is the hill so all the stories have to be set in and around the city of Bath. The use of multiple writers also highlights the differences in qualities between the writers, in this Karen Maitland stands out as the outstanding writer and Bernhard Knight as the weakest of the group.
The stories all involve murder as the umbrella title suggests, usually each story starts with a murder involving the writer's central character. The rest of the story then explores the stresses and worries of Bath at that time, so we have a 13th century Bath suffering from the plague, a 16th century Bath trying to become civilised through hosting a play etc. The best of the stories tells a messianic shipwreck survivor who comes to a grisly end on the hill and a mysterious noble woman who seduces an actor in Shakespeare's touring players.
I enjoyed the stories without being bowled over by them, the short stories are just long enough to catch the attention without being too short to feel rushed or too long to become dull. This is the sixth of these novels and they do vary in quality but this is one of the better books in the series and I'd recommend if any of the readers enjoys the novels by the individual writers.