The Heresy of Dr Dee (John Dee Papers #2) by Phil Rickman

The Heresy of Dr Dee - Phil Rickman

All talk is of the End-time...and the dead are rising. At the end of the sunless summer of 1560, black rumour shrouds the death of the one woman who stands between Lord Robert Dudley and marriage to the young Queen Elizabeth. Did Dudley's wife, Amy, die from an accidental fall in a deserted house, or was it a calculated murder? 

Even Dr John Dee, astrologer royal, adviser on the Hidden and one of Dudley's oldest friends, is uncertain. Then a rash promise to the Queen sends him to his family's old home on the Welsh Border in pursuit of the Wigmore Shewstone, a crystal credited supernatural properties. With Dee goes Robert Dudley, considered the most hated man in England. 

They travel with the entourage of a London judge sent to try a sinister Welsh brigand with a legacy dating back to the Battle of Brynglas, in which close to a thousand Englishmen died at the hands of the Welsh. After the battle, many of the bodies were, according to legend, obscenely mutilated. Now, on the same haunted hill, another dead man has been found, similarly slashed. Devious politics, small-town corruption, twisted religion and a brooding superstition leave John Dee isolated in the land of his father...

Not having read the first in the series I was at a slight disadvantage but thoroughly enjoyed this tale of occult magic,folklore and religious shenanigans in the Welsh borderlands. John Dee is an excellent character; alchemist and astrologer but also a truth seeker, puzzled and enlightened by turns. Nobody does decaying, haunted places with a violent history better than Rickman, as his stand alone novel December showed. Bloody, gruesome and very good fun