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Mistress of the Art of Death (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Ariana Franklin

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,8401772,050 (3.97)527
Member:huladancer
Title:Mistress of the Art of Death
Authors:Ariana Franklin
Info:Berkley Trade (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 420 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:mystery, historical, 12th century, medieval, British, England, Cambridge, woman doctor, child murders, crusaders, nuns, Henry II, witchcraft, Adelia Aguilar 1

Work details

Mistress of the Art of Death by Diana Norman (2007)

  1. 90
    Dissolution by C. J. Sansom (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Both these series are excellent mysteries set in well-drawn medieval England.
  2. 50
    Company of Liars by Karen Maitland (Anonymous user)
  3. 20
    Poison by Sara Poole (ltcl)
  4. 20
    Morality Play by Barry Unsworth (Anonymous user)
  5. 21
    My Lady Judge by Cora Harrison (gypsysmom)
    gypsysmom: Set in mediavel Ireland and has a woman in an unconventional job as the central character.
  6. 10
    Hangman Blind by Cassandra Clark (jm501)
  7. 10
    Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs (Cecilturtle)
  8. 10
    The Canterbury Papers by Judith Koll Healey (starfishian, starfishian)
  9. 00
    (pmorris)
  10. 00
    Death and the Devil by Frank Schätzing (starfishian)
    starfishian: Available in English translation as 'Death and the Devil'.
  11. 23
    Outlander, Books 1-5 by Diana Gabaldon (ltcl)
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» See also 527 mentions

English (175)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (177)
Showing 1-5 of 175 (next | show all)
Excellent book set in the 1100 about a female doctor helping solve a mystery. ( )
  Tacoma | Aug 19, 2014 |
About 100 pages in and it just didn't do it for me. It seemed to have many of the problems of historical detective fiction, 20th century characters in a 12th century world. The writing was a bit stilted and the characters didn't really interest me so I'm putting it aside to return to bookcrossing.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
This book wasn't terrible, but it was disappointing in a few ways.

I am willing to overlook some anachronisms in historical fiction. Especially for this time period. Some are harder to ignore. This one pushes that line a bit, but not so much that I would reject the book if that were its only flaws.

Anachronisms, (which the author readily acknowledges) are not the only flaw in this book, however.

To begin with, it is packaged as a mystery. And the possibility of delving into a 12th century version of a whodunit did intrigue me. As did the prospect of visiting with a fictionalized Henry II of England. (I am a fan of The Lion in Winter as well as Beckett.) But both of these selling points, featured prominently in the dust jacket, tend to fall away for long periods of time. And in the case of the King, are actually barely present at all.

The first third of the book went along well. Establishing the scene, the characters and the plot with modest efficiency. (The author's well thought out but though sometimes overly descriptive prose weighing things down at times.)

But then the hook of a female doctor, and the science of determining the cause of death with the rudimentary knowledge and tools of the 1100's is very close to abandoned for the next two thirds of the book. It is mentioned here and there as the reason for our heroine being present in England, but we mostly get tales and sometimes endless descriptions of banquets, moors, hillsides, tapestries, castles, animals, and so on. With a few not quite necessary flashbacks thrown in for good measure. This took my out of the story, and would have been a game changer had I been reading it as opposed to listening to the audio version, I fear.

Yet the biggest digression, and one that seems to give the book the multiple personality disorder with which I feel it suffers in the second half, is the budding romance between Adelia and Sir Rowley. When this begins to blossom, and get denied, and then consummated, and causing talk of marriage as it conflicts with careers as Adelia discovers for the first time what it is to be a woman...well it was as though Jane Austen had invaded a mystery novel, and wasn't ejected soon enough.

By the time this romantic "doctor vs. a woman's needs" bit takes the second fiddle once again to the murder plot, it is too late. We have already gone too far down the path of Adelia "discovering herself." In some cases quite literally, as I had to suffer through perhaps the most extraneous sentence I have ever read in a novel I have chosen to pick up...

"Her last coherent thought as she drifted off to sleep was of the clitoris."

I'm supposed to take it seriously as a period mystery after this?

To her credit, the author does establish a bit more credence in the final fifth or so of the book, where events are finally moving along on a rapid and suspenseful pace. Her descriptions of encountering the killer had promise. As did the moments when she went all "Crucible" on us near the end. But again, they have a lot of flim-flam from which they need to dig out by the time you get there. If I were reading it, I don't think I would have finished.

When King Henry makes his brief return at the climax of the book, I was relieved to have some sort of life, or at least some sort of wit, back in the piece. He is present for far too little of the book. And though he acts as a bit of a deus ex machina when he does show up, it is tolerable, given what has come before it.

The King was also one of the most interesting, well drawn characters. Ironic given how little he was in the book. The others, including the protagonist, lacked depth. Not flat quite, but certainly not 3D enough for me to miss them now that they are "gone" at the end of my reading the book.

The author also switched back and forth between the perspectives of the characters too much within a single chapter, sometimes without warning. One should wait until the start of a new chapter before switching to another point of view. In this book, it sometimes happens for just two paragraphs before returning to the mind of someone else.

All in all an okay book. Its ending makes it clear that there are more in the series coming. So much so in fact that it felt like a bit of a non-ending in some ways. (As did a lot of the material that took place AFTER the mystery had been solved.) I am not sure how drawn I am to continue with the adventures of Adelia, though. I have read far worse, but I don't know if I need to follow the mediocrity into the next chapter. ( )
  TyUnglebower | Jun 28, 2014 |
Brilliant series - well worth the read. ( )
  rosieclaverton | May 18, 2014 |
Great book. Truly enjoyed!! ( )
  hredwards | May 11, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 175 (next | show all)
What he gets is Adelia Aguilar, a doctor whose independent mind and arrogant manner are as unorthodox as her profession. Adelia is a delight and her spirited efforts to stop the killings, while tending to the sick, making friends and finding romance, add to our appreciation of her forensic skills. But the lonely figure who truly stands out in Franklin’s vibrant tapestry of medieval life is King Henry — an enlightened monarch condemned to live in dark times.
 

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Diana Normanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Đurić, MilanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nowak-Kreyer, MaciejTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pasetti, Maria ClaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenbloom, MiriamCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sønsteng, GryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schiøtt, LeneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shaleṿ, AyalahTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stålmarck, YlvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Timmermann, KlausTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wasel, UlrikeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yoshizawa, YasukoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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People/Characters
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Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
To Helen Heller,
mistress of the art of thrillers
First words
Here they come. From down the road we can hear harness jingling and see dust rising into the warm spring sky.
Quotations
Love, however doomed, had the capacity to attach buoys to the soul.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Ariana Franklin is the pen name of Diana Norman.
Publisher's editors
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Book description
In medieval Cambridge, four children have been murdered. The Catholic townsfolk blame their Jewish neighbors, so to save them from the rioting mob, the Cambridge Jews are placed under the protection of the king. Henry II is no friend of the Jews -- or anyone, really -- but he believes in law and order, and he desperately need the taxes and loans he receives from Jewish merchants. Hoping scientific investigation will help catch the true killer, Henry calls on his cousin the King of Sicily, whose subjects include the best medical experts in Europe, to send a forensics specialist. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno, an expert in the science of anatomy and the art of detection. Her name is Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar: the king has been sent a "mistress of the art of death." In the backward and superstitious country that is England, Adelia faces danger at every turn. As she examines the victims and retraces their last steps, she must conceal her true identity in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along the way, she's assisted by one of the king's tax collectors, Sir Rowley Picot, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. A former Crusader knight, Rowley may be either a much-needed friend or an ally of the fiend they seek. As Adelia's investigation takes her along 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... (978-0-399-15414-0)
Haiku summary
Mistress of the art
Of death helps to uncover
Cambridge child killer.
(passion4reading)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425219259, Paperback)

The national bestselling hit hailed by the New York Times as a "vibrant medieval mystery...[it] outdoes the competition."

In medieval Cambridge, England, Adelia, a female forensics expert, is summoned by King Henry II to investigate a series of gruesome murders that has wrongly implicated the Jewish population, yielding even more tragic results. As Adelia's investigation takes her behind the closed doors of the country's churches, the killer prepares to strike again.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:13 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Set in medieval England, a young Italian doctor, Adelia, must solve the mysterious murders of four children.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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