Mistress of the Art of Death

Mistress of the Art of Death

Book - 2007
Average Rating:
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A chilling, mesmerizing novel that combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the detail and drama of historical fiction.

In medieval Cambridge, England, four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on the town's Jewish community, taken as evidence that Jews sacrifice Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. To save them from the rioting mob, the king places the Cambridge Jews under his protection and hides them in a castle fortress. King Henry I is no friend of the Jews-or anyone, really-but he is invested in their fate. Without the taxes received from Jewish merchants, his treasuries would go bankrupt. Hoping scientific investigation will exonerate the Jews, Henry calls on his cousin the King of Sicily-whose subjects include the best medical experts in Europe-and asks for his finest "master of the art of death," an early version of the medical examiner. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno. But her name is Adelia-the king has been sent a mistress of the art of death.

Adelia and her companions-Simon, a Jew, and Mansur, a Moor-travel to England to unravel the mystery of the Cambridge murders, which turn out to be the work of a serial killer, most likely one who has been on Crusade with the king. In a backward and superstitious country like England, Adelia must conceal her true identity as a doctor in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along the way, she is assisted by Sir Rowley Picot, one of the king's tax collectors, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. Rowley may be a needed friend, or the fiend for whom they are searching. As Adelia's investigation takes her into Cambridge's shadowy river paths and behind the closed doors of its churches and nunneries, the hunt intensifies and the killer prepares to strike again . .
Publisher: New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, c2007
ISBN: 9780399154140
0399154140
Branch Call Number: M FRA
Characteristics: 384 p. :,map ;,24 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

First book in the series about a 12th century female healer in Britain and sometimes Europe.

One of several novels by Franklin set in England during the Dark Ages. In this first book Franklin introduces her unusual cast of characters. Italian, Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar of Salerno has been trained as a doctor and specializes in the study of bones. While this type of education f... Read More »


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p
patcarstensen
Jul 30, 2017

It takes quite a bit of tugging of history to create the main characters, but it is worth it.

c
captbligh
Feb 09, 2017

A good, not plodding, read. Where did author get that medieval vocabulary? Fun characters and a drawn out romance. Didn’t need the last couple pages.

AL_BRIDGET Aug 10, 2016

Gripping and really interesting mystery, where I didn't guess who did it, AND I loved the protagonist. I think I'll pick up the rest of this series as I have time.

f
finn75
Jun 06, 2016

Very readable medieval mystery of three foreigners sent to England to investigate the murder of children that is being blamed on local Jews. Sometimes a bit far fetched but the characters and plot were really interesting to the point that I am looking for the next in the series!

r
Rock_Shadow
Sep 18, 2014

Well done murder mystery: "who'd done it" was intriguing till the crucial scene. I would have appreciated the crimes to have been less dark, and the ending a little bit different, but I wasn't able to put the book down. The most interesting passages for me had to do with the crusades.

mvkramer Jul 29, 2014

Where this book faltered for me was the romance. It was unnecessary to the point of being a distraction, and made the two characters involved less three-dimensional rather than more so. I do not understand why Adelia was attracted to Rowley...or he to her. It was so transparently forced, and the book would have been just fine if they were friends and not romantically involved. I don't regret reading it, but I won't read any others in the series.

j
jpward
Mar 17, 2014

If this is the new standard for a "National Bestseller" than we are in literary trouble. The story line was hackneyed, the old standard of girl encounters challenge, drawn into romantic situation she doesn't want, solves mystery, throws herself into the arms of, (who else?), her rescuer. Shades of Nancy Drew. Historically, its' detail deficient, and the book could have been set anywhere, anytime, without historical context. At best, I'd call it a beach book but definitely not something that would motivate me to look for other titles by this author or world class writing.

Barbara5060 Oct 31, 2013

Excellent book! Historical fact, political hints, information about the medical abilities, and lack thereof, of the time/place. Good characters, good plot. Some vocabulary was time-specific, mostly nouns, in the descriptions, so that I would have liked a glossary on occasion, but it didn't slow the story down.

BeccaBB Oct 01, 2012

Franklin does a wonderful job of bringing the setting to life. It is filled with suspicion and hate, intolerance and superstition. It is a dark dangerous place but you also get to see the hope and the good of the people who Adelia meets along the way. The acts committed against the children are bloody and horrid and they are often described in detail. And Adelia, being a doctor and trying to be impersonal, talks about the things that were done in cold scientific facts that gives both the crimes and her a hard edge. Adelia is a woman in a field where women are not accepted and she has had to learn not only to deal with the hard facts of her profession but also with working under the constraints placed upon her by society. To do that she thinks of herself not as a woman but as a doctor and sometimes I think she pushed the point too hard and too often and her constant reminders of who she is and what she knows makes her come off as pompous. A romance develops that you can see coming and I don’t know that it adds much to the story but it doesn’t detract from it either. The ending is rather sensational and dramatic as compared to the rest of the book. And maybe it is not completely historically accurate but any faults I found in the story I was able to overlook because it was enjoyable to read. Adelia and the characters around her, including the dog, are interesting and well drawn. The reader is provided with a good picture of the world of the time and the thoughts and politics of the people. There are enough suspects and danger and clues to make the mystery fun to follow. And it is even alright if you can figure out a few things before you are told because you will still want to read through to the end.

c
canarymom
Jul 31, 2012

Excellent fiction-have to go find the first of her books.

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