Mistress of the Art of Death

Walmart # 9780143053101

Mistress of the Art of Death

Walmart # 9780143053101
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About This Item

Paperback, Penguin Group Canada, 2008, ISBN13 9780143053101, ISBN10 0143053108
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4 out of 5 Stars
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1-5 of 125 reviews

Both a first class myster

Both a first class mystery and an excellent piece of historical fiction, The Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin was a wonderful read. Dispatched to England from Salerno, Italy, Adelia Aguilar is that rarity of the twelfth century, a female doctor. Both that fact and, that she specializes in reading the causes of death from corpses are kept hidden, as women were considered to have little brainpower or worth. Cambridge is being held in thrall by a serial killer, one that targets the most innocent and helpless, the children. The city is up in arms against the Jewish population, blaming them for the four children that have already been taken and murdered. Adelia and her companions enter the hunt and realize quickly that they are in search of a monster. Not sure whether she is being aided or thwarted, she finds herself butting heads with many, but in particular Sir Rowley Picot seems to be too interested in this investigation. I can't praise this book enough, the author tells her story in a wry, witty manner than lures the reader on. Well plotted with a mystery that is both chilling and gruesome, this book succeeds on many levels. We are given plenty of authentic historical detail be it the power of the Catholic Church, the treatment of Jews in medieval times, or basic knowledge on food, clothing and day-to-day events. Ariana Franklin , who is actually historical writer Diana Norman, knows of what she writes. A great introduction to what promises to be a wonderful series,

Both a first class myster

Both a first class mystery and an excellent piece of historical fiction, The Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin was a wonderful read. Dispatched to England from Salerno, Italy, Adelia Aguilar is that rarity of the twelfth century, a female doctor. Both that fact and, that she specializes in reading the causes of death from corpses are kept hidden, as women were considered to have little brainpower or worth. Cambridge is being held in thrall by a serial killer, one that targets the most innocent and helpless, the children. The city is up in arms against the Jewish population, blaming them for the four children that have already been taken and murdered. Adelia and her companions enter the hunt and realize quickly that they are in search of a monster. Not sure whether she is being aided or thwarted, she finds herself butting heads with many, but in particular Sir Rowley Picot seems to be too interested in this investigation. I can't praise this book enough, the author tells her story in a wry, witty manner than lures the reader on. Well plotted with a mystery that is both chilling and gruesome, this book succeeds on many levels. We are given plenty of authentic historical detail be it the power of the Catholic Church, the treatment of Jews in medieval times, or basic knowledge on food, clothing and day-to-day events. Ariana Franklin , who is actually historical writer Diana Norman, knows of what she writes. A great introduction to what promises to be a wonderful series,

I know I'm a bit late to

I know I'm a bit late to the party reading this as it made the rounds of recommendations on LibraryThing a while back. I find that my expectations of books that everyone is raving about get a bit too high and it's best to let the hooplah die down before I try it...it tends to work out better for me. That said, I'll add my recommendation if you like historical mysteries because Ariana Franklin has put together the entire package. We've got a great setting: the England of Henry II, his struggles to assert control over the Church made complicated by the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket. We've got a good plot line: a serial killer preying on children in the town of Cambridge, Jews being scapegoated (particularly by the Church) and, as a consequence, the country's banking system unraveling. We've got an interesting premise for the main character: Henry's summons to Salerno for what we'd call a forensic pathologist results in Adelia Aguilar. She's the best qualified for the job...true...but misogynistic England is absolutely not ready for a 12th century Abby Scuito. There are two things that take those beginnings and make this a great mystery. The first is the well-rounded characterizations. So often in mysteries, only the main character or two is given any depth. Everyone else is a two-dimensional cutout whose purpose is either: a) to serve as convenient red herrings, or b) to check off the boxes of the main character's life ("loving boyfriend...check...faithful housekeeper...check"). Franklin avoided this: from Adelia, to the boyfriend, and on to the housekeeper, each character is a distinct personality, each relationship is a complex one that can fail as easily as it could succeed. The second is the seamlessness with which she glues everything together. Henry's struggle with the Church isn't some irrelevant piece of history glued onto the story in order to give it some period flavor. It's an integral component of the plot without which the story wouldn't work. The fact that Adelia is female doesn't come across as yet another far-fetched plot device intended to make this just one more in a long line of "quirky" mysteries. Rather, though the ideas that drove it might be a bit more of the 20th century than the 12th, Franklin tends to play by the rules and force Adelia and her companions to deal with the ramifications of her situation. I may not be quite ready to replace Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael as my favorite Middle Ages sleuth; there are too many years of enjoying him. But, Adelia makes a good run for it and, if the later volumes in the series are on a par with this one, she may capture the title.

First, the disclaimer: my

First, the disclaimer: my biggest pet peeve in historical fiction is when the characters behave and think like modern people, just dressed up in, say, tunics and riding horses, like an extra-authentic renaissance festival. People in the past not only wore different clothes and had bad teeth; they thought differently. Think about how attitudes toward homosexuality, the environment and race have changed in the past twenty years. Even worse, in my opinion, is when the author gives all the "bad guys" the mindset of the time, but the "good guys" are all modern liberals. So I should have put this down after the first twenty pages. The protagonist, a forensic pathologist named Adelia, is not just a proto-feminist, but a full blown Feminist who could lecture Gloria Steinem on the evils of the male patriarchy. She is also shocked at witnessing antisemitism. In the twelfth century. But, despite all that, it was a fun and diverting read, an interesting mystery full of atmosphere and twists. I would recommend it to anyone who likes historical mysteries and who is able to overlook the anachronisms.

This book reads best as a

This book reads best as a thriller, since the mystery is so compelling and suspenseful that you almost forget about the twelfth century England backdrop. The book did, however, spark my interest in reading more about the reign of Henry II from other authors. Ariana Franklin's book is somewhat reminiscent of Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series, with the strong, intelligent female doctor heroine in a time and place where women's opinions were worse than discounted. However, "Mistress" has less emphasis on the romance and a much tighter (mercifully) focus on moving the plot forward, creating a rousing suspense. I must say that some of the violence and cruelty in the book was difficult to stomach, and during at least one scene I felt it was a bit gratuitous. Nevertheless, the book had me turning the pages, and I definitely want to read the sequel - "A Serpent's Tale."
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