The Bones of Avalon

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The Bones of Avalon
Author Phil Rickman
Country England
Language English
Series The John Dee Papers
Genre Historical novel
Publisher Atlantic Books (England)
Publication date
1 April 2010
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 480
ISBN 978-1848872707

The Bones of Avalon is a novel in first-person narrative mode by Phil Rickman. It is about John Dee who investigates undercover on Her Majesty's Service. It was followed by The Heresy of Dr Dee.[1]


Part 1[edit]

John Dee gets visited by Elizabeth I of England in Mortlake. She implies she wants to do some research on "our royal ancestor" King Arthur. Subsequently her Secretary of State Sir William Cecil assigns him to seize King Arthur's bones. This would finally refute the still popular myth of King Arthur's messianic return. Sir William Cecil wants to have Arthur's bones "formally presented" to the Queen by Dee, who HRH considers "her Merlin".

Part 2[edit]

John Dee arrives in Glastonbury, where according to Giraldus Cambrensis some centuries ago a successful excavation of King Arthur's remains has taken place. When Dee's supporter Robert Dudley gets seriously sick, the local healer Eleanor Borrow is supposed to cure him. She goes fetching mineral water from the Chalice Well because she thinks it increases the impact of her herbal medicine. Later, when the mutilated corpse of Dudley's servant is found, Eleanor Borrow is suspected to have murdered him as a satanic ritual.

Part 3[edit]

John Dee learns that Queen Elizabeth is haunted by nightmares because it is unclear what happened to Arthur's bones. Still his search remains futile. He meets secretly with Eleanor Borrow. She informs him that her late mother worked with John Leland. Craving for visions he talks her into giving him some of her mother's most dangerous elixir. When he awakes after his trip, she has disappeared.

Part 4[edit]

John Dee continues his search and even excavates Eleanor Borrow's mother. In her coffin he finds a map she made together with the famous antiquarian John Leland. This reveals to him what Richard Whiting wouldn't disclose even under the most severe torture. But Eleanor has been arrested and sentenced to death.

Part 5[edit]

John detects the lost books of the destroyed Glastonbury Abbey. Hereby he also encounters Michel de Nostredame who discloses to him how the Jesuits attempt to replace the Protestantic Queen Elizabeth by Mary Stuart.


Historical inaccuracies[edit]

Phil Rickman admits in the book's Notes and Credits that according to contemporary records Joan Tyrre lived in Taunton.


The novel received mixed reviews. Jennifer Monahan Winberry considered Rickman's tale enjoyable for connoisseurs of the Arthurian legend but also for aficionados of the Elizabethan era.[2] Margaret Donsbach wrote the plot progressed "slow-moving at times" but a readership "interested in the Renaissance approach to science and the occult" would appreciate the novel as "an authentic, insightful portrayal of the period".[3] Amanda Gillies praised Rickman for his diligent research and recommended his novel strongly for readers who relish historical crime stories.[4] Kirkus Reviews published a similar opinion and judged Rickman had described historical persons "with admirable scholarship and verve".[5] Publishers Weekly reviewer on the other hand complained Rickman's novel wouldn't "do justice to the intriguing Dee" and pointed out that Dee also was a mathematician.[6]


  1. ^ "The Heresy of Dr Dee". Phil Rickman's Homepage. Retrieved February 24, 2013. 
  2. ^ "The Bones of Avalon". The Mystery Reader. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  3. ^ "The Bones of Avalon". Retrieved February 24, 2013. 
  4. ^ "The Bones of Avalon". Retrieved July 2, 2010. 
  5. ^ "The Bones of Avalon". Kirkus Reviews. May 2011. Retrieved February 24, 2011. 
  6. ^ "The Bones of Avalon". Publishers Weekly. April 18, 2011. Retrieved February 24, 2011.