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Mistress of the Art of Death Paperback – January 29, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
Ariana Franklin's delightful humor is present throughout the piece -- even in the story's most dire moment, when Adelia is bound and trapped within breathing range of Death itself. Her characters have complex backgrounds that shed light on their present relations and actions -- the Prior's relationship with the housekeeper he hires for Adelia, and King Henry II has his own personal motivation for summoning these foreign specialists. Interestingly, the backstory comes neatly into play in the end: swoopingly, when King Henry arrives to see to matters himself, and subtly, when Adelia's housekeeper secretly passes on her relationship and the prior to Adelia and her love.
Franklin develops a tumultuous romance between Adelia and the famous Sir Rowley Picot -- both characters of importance, and equally stubborn in nature. Marriage, in those times as now, required an act of submission, which would not suit Adelia's personage. Yet -- after those involved in the murders have been dealt with and the truth made known to the public -- Franklin does take care to let Adelia live happilly ever after with her man, but with her own solution...
Instead, he gets Adelia, a Mistress of the Art of Death, who is accompanied by Simon, the Jewish investigatory, and Mansur, a large Muslim eunuch who is Adelia's bodyguard. In the hysterical and superstitious climate of Cambridge, and in order to avoid a charge of witchcraft, Mansur poses as the doctor and Adelia his assisant. All three begin the difficult task of examining the childrens bodies, gathering the clues, and searching for the killer.
This book is sort of a cross between CSI and Silence of the lambs. The actual mystery is interesting and kept my attention but I kept getting pulled out of the book by dialogue or some historical fact that just didn't seem right. The characters, esp. Adelia, all have very modern attitudes and just weren't believable. Additionally the story went on way too long after the killer is revealed.
I liked the author's writing style though and it was infused with a lot of dry humor which I enjoyed. So ultimately although I did have issues with certain aspects of the book, they weren't so bad that I regret reading it. If you can over look the modern attitudes and anachronisms and just read it for the story itself I think you'll really like it.
However, I have to say that this story grabbed me by the arm and dragged me in and would not let me go until the last page. And the author really did use Henry II as an effective character and an important object lesson. Who does remember a Henry aside from his domestic imbolgios and his fight with Thomas a Becket? Eleanor of Aquitaine had much better press.
And whether or not the romance was an afterthought to please an editor as suggested by another reviewer-- I think it was intrinsic given the role it plays in the development of various stings of the plot-- there is much about it to make genre romance fans weep and gnash their teeth.
For the interesting characters, for the different view of the 12th century, for lots of good reasons, pick this book up.
A little investigation turns up that this is a pseudonym for Diana Norman. I'm going to pick up a few of her other historical novels under that name.
The writing is well done and perfect after a long day...though admittedly, the use of some of the more modern english ("ain't", etc.) throws one off first, it does serve to help flesh out characters who are educated versus those who aren't.
And yes, if you are a fan of CSI, you'll love this book. If you like mysteries, you'll enjoy it. And if you crave a good historical fiction, this is just the thing. And, if you're like me, and have all three of those characteristics together, then don't waste time reading any more reviews -- get this book.
Note to the author, Ms. Franklin: I do so hope we get a sequel. Very much enjoyed the protagonist and the world in which she lives.
J. Avellanet, Co-Founder of Cerulean Associates LLC
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A good story, it felt like it jumped around a bit more than I would have liked. However it was fully engrossing and well told.Published 17 days ago by Amanda B
I LOVE Ariana Franklin historical novels. The main characters are interesting, and I enjoy the historical connections I can make.Published 20 days ago by Lisa E. Coleman
Good telling of a great story. Made me want to read the sequel novels.Published 1 month ago by M. F. Simon
Wonderful tale of a woman coroner in the time of HenryII who solves the terrible murders of children and champions the cause of England's Jews.Published 1 month ago by J6 LEITH
This is a truly masterful historical novel. Ariana Franklin is a master story teller.Published 2 months ago by Jonathan Ponter jonponter
One of the best mysteries ever! I am a physician and the medical parts of the book are extremely accurate. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Christina R Bjornstad
Interesting and engaging read with some drama. No name of the rose but still worth your time. Would like to have had an attempt at old English. :)Published 2 months ago by ElvisMA
Mystery novels with forensic pathology are among my favorite genres. This one was very different because it dealt with the subject at the dawn of medical knowledge (1100's). Read morePublished 3 months ago by Hey, Jude!