This was a difficult book to read because the killer in this mystery sexually tortures and murders children. Had I known that the book contained such scenes, I would not have read it. However it was almost impossible to put down, and the main characters (not the killer) and setting were so interesting that, in spite of myself, I immediately started reading the sequel. If you can get past the the horrific evil committed by the serial killer in the novel, and you like mysteries and/or historical novels, then I would recommend it.
I believe this is the first in a new series of historical mysteries featuring Adelia, a female physician trained at Salerno, where such things as autopsies and female doctors were allowed. She is sent by the King of Sicily to investigate the serial murders of several children in Cambridge UK in the year 1137 along with two companions--Simon, an expert investigator, and Mansur, a large Arab man who poses as the doctor with Adelia as his assistant--which would have been acceptable in England at that time. Henry II has also commissioned one of his tax collectors to find the murderer before the English people rise up and demand that all Jews be expelled from England, as they are presently being blamed for the deaths. King Henry needs the Jews' income on his tax rolls and thus can't let that happen. Adelia uses crude forensic techniques to discover clues and soon the suspect list is narrowed down. What she doesn't count on is being attracted to one of her suspects--she, avowed to celibacy, sworn to be a doctor first and foremost above all. While the mystery itself wasn't too hard to figure out, certain aspects of it were surprising. I really enjoyed this book, which is set my favorite time period, and I already feel like I know many of the characters--Adelia as well as the peripheral characters--and do hope it becomes a series!
Linda K. (lkenn1410) reviewed Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death, Bk 1) on
Helpful Score: 6
Page turning historical fiction. Children are being brutally murdered in Cambridge, England during the reign of Henry II. Adriane, a "doctor of the the dead", is sent by the King of Sicily to investigate and try to solve themurders. She is accompanied by a male Jew and a male Muslim, since as a woman she cannot travel alone. Additionally, the Muslim must pose as the doctor, since the Church does not recognize female doctors. Many twists and turns. Can be graphically violent in places.
Sue P. (loves2bake) reviewed Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death, Bk 1) on
Helpful Score: 6
This is a wonderfully woven tale of mystery and intrigue full of 12th century culture: churches, castles, and chauvinism. Historical fiction buffs and fans of Diana Gabaldon's books will really like this one!
Mistress of the Art of Death is a gripping story of a serial murderer in Medieval England. Think CSI meets Kay Scarpetta during the crusades.
Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar is the mistress of the art of death; an early day forensic scientist. Educated by her father at the medical school in Salerno Adelia is sent by the King of Sicily to aid his cousin Henry II in finding out who is killing the children of Cambridge. Along with Simon of Naples, a âspyâ and Mansur, an Arab eunuch who acts as her bodyguard, it's their job to find a murderer before he kills again.
This is a well written and well plotted thriller with loads of historical information on early forensics and medieval life in general. I was very entertained and I learned a lot too.
The elements of this book are common enough in historical novels: a surprisingly independent and liberated woman heroine, this time a doctor; a learned Jew, an exotic and forbidding bodyguard, Crusaders, English nobles and English peasants, priests and nuns, all populating a scenic English town grappling with the gruesome deaths of several children.
But what Ariana Franklin does with those elements, and how she does it, turns those well-used pieces into an engrossing and literate story. She adds just enough detail on scenery or medicine or religion, manages to make even minor characters memorable, and brings her major characters vividly to life.
This book takes the unique perspective of Adelia, a female doctor in the Middle Ages (from Salerno, Italy where women were allowed to practice medicine) and throws her and her two friends into a crime scene in a small town in England where her job would be seen as witchcraft or worse. She is a mistress of the art of death, meaning that she can analyze a corpse and figure out the cause of death. Her Muslim body guard posses as the real doctor and she as his translator, with their investigator colleague Simon posing as another assistant, so that they can go about their business without drawing too much attention to themselves (or at least the best they can being three strangers in a small town). Their job is to figure out who is brutally killing children in order to exonerate the town's Jewish population, which has since been held captive in a castle and still blamed even as murders keep occurring after their captivity started. The king's tax collector Sir Rowley Picot serves as a help to their investigation, but is simultaneously Adelia's prime suspect.
After hearing so many wonderful things about this book, I really wanted to like it more than I did. Don't get me wrong, it is a very good story with many different twists to keep you guessing at "whodunit" until the very end. However, I personally had a hard time with the author's writing style. It took quite a while for me to get used to how the point of view could jump repeatedly between characters, often in the same paragraph without any real warning! It didn't help that there were a lot of names and characters thrown at you at the every beginning, and some of them don't come back into play until later in the story. Mystery isn't my usual genre and I've been sick all week, which may have compounded my difficulty in reading it, but still, I was expecting to enjoy this story more than I actually did. I've heard there are two sequels, but I'm debating if I should read them or not. I am curious to find out what happens to Adelia and her friends, but I'm not sure I enjoyed this book that much to be that overly concerned.
If you like historical fiction, forensics, murder and well written characters, you will enjoy Ariana Franklin's "Mistress of the Art of Death". From the first words to the final page, this book never lost my attention. The characters are smart and well rounded and it was easy to imagine them off the page. The protagonist is strong, smart and feisty while the surrounding players are varied and full of life. Right to the end this who-dun-it, will keep your attention and leave you wanting more.
This is my first ever review and the first book I read by Ariana Franklin. Ms. Franklin did a wonderful job bringing the reader into 10th century England with good character development and her ability to describe scenery. Plus the who-done-it was a shocker! I recommend this book.
This book centers around the murder and disappearances of children in an English village around 1170 during the reign of Henry II. Even thought the main character was wildly anachronistic as a female necrologist with very modern sensibilities, the story begins with great promise and weaves prejudice, superstition, the unchallenged control of the "church" and the duplicitous lives of its followers together in a wonderful way. But midway through, the story losses its way and devolves into a medieval romance novel. The characters become sadly predictable and resolution is VERY unsatisfying as a result.
This was a good read. Not what you think by the title...Hmm...I was thinking S&M or something the first time I saw it. It is about a female forensic pathologist, before such a thing existed. Some of the wording was hard to understand in the beginning and I struggled a little bit...but once you get into the story it is really good.
A bit of a slow start, but then this story really takes off! History and murder mystery together, if you like this type of novel you won't be disappointed. The humor reminded me of the Bernard Cornwell Uhtred series.
I thought this was a terrific book, well written, well edited, with fascinating, fully fleshed characters & kept you guessing until the last minute as to who was the monster.
The research and love of the period are obvious... I'm an amateur historian, specializing in this period of british history, so was delighted by the thoroughness of the author's research and her ability to make everything interesting and relevant for those readers not having expertise in the subject.
The main subject of the book is child abuse BUT it all happens 'off camera' so you don't get your nose rubbed in it.
It takes place in 12th century england but also explores Salerno (fascinating and what i didn't know about what was going on there would fill a swimming pool) as well as the first and second crusades.
I loved every page and there wasn't a single thing for me to carp about (I even approved of everything written about the Plantagents... and I LOVE the Plantagenets).
I'm not a real HF buff, but I gave this book a shot becasue of the whole CSI meets Canterbury Tales decriptives I came across in other reviews. This book, however did not hold my interest at all. I read about 1/2 and became completely bored with it. Since I didn't give the second half a chance, my review is very unfair. I hesitated writing it, but I figured I'd reach out to those, like me, that may be into murder mysteries, but don't have the knack for historical fiction. If your into both--you'll like this book. If your'e only into one or the other...pass on this one!
A really excellent book. A good, suspensful mystery with great characters. The setting is 12 century England. Although I am not fond of historical works, this was very well written. I would recommend to mystery lovers as well as fans of historical works.
Ariana Franklin's medieval thriller centers on Adelia Aguilar, a "mistress of the art of death." Trained as a doctor at the famed medical school in Salerno, Italy, Adelia's life's work is to hear the cries of the dead, not from their mouths, but from the injuries inflicted on their bodies. Through careful examination, Adelia can determine how, when and where someone died.
I very much enjoyed this unusual twist on the modern forensic thriller. Franklin skillfully wove together many plot threads while illuminating the culture of medieval Cambridge. I learned about Jewish, Christian and Muslim customs, the lives of knights on crusade and the struggles that sometimes occurred between faith and reason.
Adelia herself was a likable character - a determined woman in a man's world, absolutely sure of her calling - and although I rolled my eyes a bit when Franklin gave her a love interest, that storyline was resolved in a way true to her character.
The climax of the tale was suitably exciting and horrifying. Franklin concluded her story with a dazzling appearance by Henry II himself, once again confounding church authorities while seeking true justice in his kingdom.
I really liked this once I got past the early chapter(s)....it was an offputting start for me. (I had started a few times previously, but didn't see where the book could go so I put it down.)Once I made the commitment, I really fell into the story though. Adelia was a fascinating focus/spokesperson for the story. Would be interested to know whether authors' other books are as compelling.I will take a look!
I don't often read book that have graphic sexual violence in them. I find them really difficult to get through. I had no idea this book would have something like that in it, and once I started I couldn't stop going forward with it.
I wound up liking this book a lot. Really, really loved the main character. She was fantastic. A strong, independent woman ... in a time when women weren't allowed to be strong and independent. Also, Rosalyn Landor, the narrator, was superb. She really made the book come alive for me.
I'd have given this book 5 stars if it wasn't for her lover. I must say, he annoyed me so much. I was not a fan of his, and was disappointed to see that they actually fell in love. I didn't think he was the partner for her.
Holly B. reviewed Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death, Bk 1) on
I loved this audio book! I am usually hesitant about long audio books (11 cds) as I listen on my commute and don't want to forget where the story was over the weekend. No problem - the story fascinated me, I was sitting in my car during lunch and then over the weekend I was still thinking about and longing to get back in the car to listen to it more! Great description of place and history, fully realized characters, humor, suspense - my favorite audio book since The Thirteenth Tale.
I really liked this book. The protagonist Adelia is like Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta of the Dark Ages. She even studies decomposing corpses like Scarpetta on "The Body Farm." Ariana Franklin is intimate in her knowledge of the time period. I really enjoyed learning about the training of doctors in Salerno, Italy. I wasn't able to discern how much of this was historical fact other than Salerno did have the first university of medicine in the world. The concept of the kinds of trials and tribulations an intelligent individualistic woman with 21st century ideas about how women should be treated is also fascinating. I must admit that the romance in the book irked me more than it enhanced the story but at least she refuses to marry him--that redeemed the story line. I didn't like how Franklin dips in and out of different characters' thoughts and feelings. In the first chapter alone, she is first person on Adelia's thoughts but never goes 1st person again, goes to third person for King Henry II and Aaron of Lincoln, Gordinus the African, and Lord Mordicai's. I teach creative writing and to do such is considered poor form and discouraged; however, I understand why she did it. She was trying to give the reader enough information about the background, that s/he wouldnot become lost later on when the book begins in ernest. It also serves to build anticipation and curiosity about the story. Perhaps it is a habit that she picked up from being a journalist. She does a wonderful job on character and scene mood development. She artfully drops clues throughout about the murderer. I loved how she makes the murderer seem more like a supernatural mythic beast than a human being. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and recommend it highly if one can overlook a few eccentricities of the author.
Tami W. (DragonBreath) reviewed Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death, Bk 1) on
This book sounded intriguing to me from the first time I read its description- a murder mystery set in 12th Century England, with a female CSI, a Jew, and a tax collector as the 3 primary investigators into the gruesome deaths of 4 children.
The author sets up the mystery quite well, using primarily the female lead's point of view, giving sound reasons for her initial thoughts as to who the murderer is. The mystery grabbed my attention and kept it for the entire book. Unfortunately, the romance in the book was very distracting to me, especially at the end; I feel that the last few sections that centered on the romance could have been left out, which would have made the story better overall.
Absolutely loved this book, the rich details of the characters and storyline make you unable to put it down. A strong educated woman in this period of time makes this book unique plus the fact that she is a doctor traveling with a man is great.
Story is like a medievil mystery that she is envolved in and the trials she has to endure since she is not suppose to be smart.
This is a wonderful and unusual book. Set in 12th century England, an early forensic pathologist (who is, amazingly, a woman) works to uncover the identity of a mass murderer who targets children. The detail is rich and authentic and the characters are multi-faceted. Midway through this book, I immediately ordered two more of this author's titles.
I just couldn't do it. Maybe it is because I have recently had a baby, but the violence against children was just too strong for my stomach. I do love a good mystery and I am a bit ashamed that I couldn't get through more than 100 pages. Maybe in time I will come back to this work.
Good book. It took me awhile to get into it, the beginning chapters give you a glimpse into the characters in the story, but not what the story is about, so you do have to stick with it to get to the point of the story. I liked Adelia from the beginning ~ a woman well ahead of her time in more ways than one, dropped into a world that decades behind the one that she was raised in and having to find a way to maintain who she is while playing by anothers rules. Glytha & Ulf are my favorite secondary characters and play off Adelia well. Rowley took awhile for me to like him, but as the story goes along he does start to grow on you. It is also a testament to the author that I had no clue as to who the killer was until the reveal. Looking forward to reading the other books in the series and seeing what happens to the characters.
Historical fiction meets CSI in this thriller. A female forensic doctor (egads! Aren't women just good for staying at home and raising children? At least that's what they thought back then. She would have been considered to be a witch) is hired to determine who is killing children in Cambridge.
There are many characters in this book, but it is easy to keep them all straight. There is a splash of romance to go along with the science.
Warning: Many dead children. Much detail. Gore galore. A few whacked out characters.
But an entertaining read. And the first in a series.
I like Franklin's writing. She appeals to both men and women, as my husband enjoys her books as well. This book is graphic in its descriptions, but is relevant to the story. It is matter of fact and not meant to be a gore fest (of which I detest). I am bothered by one thing, but don't continue reading if you don't want the story potentially spoiled!!!
When a mystery is written, a few twists and turns are expected, but in this case, the killer is someone prevalent in the story and we, as readers have no clues whatsoever about the potential for their terrible deeds. It is quite a surprise, in a way that I didn't feel I could say that he/she was ever a potential suspect. I guess that is good in some ways, but sometimes, in a mystery, one wants to get closer to the figuring out who it is.
Other than that thought, I truly enjoyed the book and look forward to the next installment.
Four children have been murdered in Cambridge in 1171. The population is blaming it on the Jewish community. King Henry I requests help from his cousin the King of Sicily. The help arrives from Salerno and is not quite what Henry was expecting. Adelia is more forensic pathologist/coroner than physician but she is capable at both. Her companions are Simon, a Jew, and Mansur, a Moor.
Adelia is a little difficult to accept at first. She is more straight forward than the people are used to. I'm sure that Ms. Franklin wrote her to be off setting to show how much of a foreigner she is to the townspeople. Adelia's romance with Rowley, the local tax collector was an interesting surprise. The book is well written and poetic license is easily dismissed in regard to true facts from the time period. Overall a good read.
The first in her at present 4-part series on a medieval female forensic doctor, Mistress of the Art of Death is Ariana Franklin's lovely debut. Her premise is a little unbelievable--a female doctor/medical examiner, whose skills were so sought after that the King of England engages her services multiple times and refuses her return passage to her home in Italy--but wonderful and engaging to read. If you like historical fiction, Franklin's novels about with period detail and modern ideas anachronistically incorporated and offer a smooth and easy read.
This book takes place in the twelfth century in the town of Cambridge, England where four children have been murdered. A community of Jewish people have been blamed for the crimes by Catholics and have been given sanctuary by the king. The king hires an expert to help solve the mystery. The expert, Adelia, is a female which is not widely accepted by the English people. At times I felt like I was reading a foreign language but about halfway through the book, I really started to like the characters and the story. I will most likely go for the next story starring Adelia.
One of my favorite books. A woman doctor with a servant and a mystery to solve is so engrossing that you can't put it down. This book really gives you wonderful details and the storyline keeps a quick pace.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author made me suspect everyone! While some book reviews pooh-pooh Dr. Trotula's modern sensibilities, which would be unheard of in those times, I didn't care. It's fiction. If I wanted believable, I'd read a biography. I thought the authors descriptors of the people, the landscape, even Safeguard, were great. It helped to put you in the scene. I can't wait to read the next books in the series.
Excellent story! Began with the audio book (fantastic narration), and finished the print. Lo, and behold, there are additional books about Adelia! Can only hope each is as delightfully gripping as this one.
Tonya L. (castingbread) reviewed Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death, Bk 1) on
This book was hard for me to get into ... at first. Usually I won't stick with them if I'm not enticed by the end of the first chapter or two. This one took about 40 pages, but I finally started getting it. The writing is choppy, and the author is no fine and poetic storyteller, but she presented a great plot and stuck with it. The historical content was fantastic, and I loved the interplay between good and evil. I also loved the flawed humanity presented here, but also the understanding of how too great of an evil in a person is inexcusable. By the middle of the book, I couldn't put it down and was sorry to see it end. I wanted the characters to go on and on. A worthy read and much better than a pool-side novel.
As much as I wanted to enjoy this book, I just couldn't. Granted this is historically accurate, which I would think is maybe why I didn't like it so much. I'm not into all of the terms of the time etc, so trying to read this is like throwing me into a pool when I don't know how to swim. Plus there were soo many characters. I got confused by the book and the writing style and just finally gave up. Give me a modern day text any time compared to one that is written like I'm reading Shakespeare.