Picture of author.

Ariana Franklin (1933–2011)

Author of Mistress of the Art of Death

32+ Works 10,230 Members 564 Reviews 34 Favorited

About the Author

Ariana Franklin is a pen name used by Diana Norman. She is a British author and journalist writing historical fiction and non-fiction. She was born in Devon, England. She is married to the film critic Barry Norman. (Bowker Author Biography)
Image credit: Mary Jane Russell


Works by Ariana Franklin

Mistress of the Art of Death (2007) 3,941 copies
The Serpent's Tale (2008) 1,759 copies
Grave Goods (2009) 1,360 copies
A Murderous Procession (2010) 943 copies
City of Shadows (2006) 697 copies
The Siege Winter (2014) 361 copies
A Catch of Consequence (2002) 278 copies
The Vizard Mask (1994) 138 copies
Taking Liberties (2003) 132 copies
Death and the Maiden (2020) 117 copies
The Sparks Fly Upward (2006) 89 copies
The Pirate Queen (1991) 67 copies
Blood Royal (1998) 57 copies
The Morning Gift (1985) 53 copies
Shores of Darkness (1996) 49 copies

Associated Works


12th century (259) 2008 (43) 2009 (50) Adelia Aguilar (94) audio (41) audiobook (58) British (60) Cambridge (109) crime (137) crime fiction (66) ebook (63) Eleanor of Aquitaine (53) England (437) fiction (933) forensics (193) Germany (39) Henry II (253) historical (359) historical fiction (1,107) historical mystery (272) history (77) Jews (50) library (56) medieval (337) Medieval England (51) Middle Ages (140) Mistress of the Art of Death (85) Mistress of the Art of Death series (41) murder (134) mysteries (45) mystery (1,134) novel (96) own (48) read (135) series (139) suspense (56) thriller (58) to-read (657) unread (62) women (57)

Common Knowledge

Legal name
Norman, Diana
Other names
Franklin, Ariana
Narracott, Mary Diana (birth name)
Date of death
London, England, UK
Place of death
Datchworth, Hertfordshire, England, UK
Places of residence
Torquay, Devon, England, UK
Hertfordshire, England, UK
London, England, UK
journalist (freelance)
historical novelist
Norman, Barry (husband)
Awards and honors
CWA Dagger in the Library (2010)
Ellis Peters Historical Dagger (2007)
Helen Heller Agency
Short biography
Ariana Franklin was the pen name of British writer Diana Norman. A former newspaper journalist, she wrote several critically acclaimed biographies and historical novels under her own name. She used the pen name for more recent historical thrillers.



Group Read (January) - A MURDEROUS PROCESSION in The 11 in 11 Category Challenge (January 2011)


Samantha Norman takes a stab at completing her mother Ariana Franklin's iconic mystery series starring Adelia Aguilar. Norman makes several strategic decisions with the plotting of the story to have it play to her strengths. The writing is good and the story is interesting. Unfortunately, it's the pacing that fails Norman and that shows, in a big way, that this book won't fully satisfy readers, let alone live up to the hype set by the previous novels. Overall, I highly recommend approaching this novel as a standalone story rather than as the finale to the Mistress of the Art of Death series.

Rather than take on the analytical and legendary Adelia, Norman opts to tell the story of Death and the Maiden from the point of view of her daughter Almeison "Allie". This choice is smart on the part of Norman; however, it does create a staggering tonal shift as the predecessor in the series A Murderous Procession ends on a dramatic cliffhanger. Allie is positioned as Adelia's protege in all things medical and macabre, but Allie is chafing at the monotony of her life with her mother. When fan-favorite Glytha falls ill and Adelia breaks her ankle, Allie is proposed as the replacement nurse. Unbeknownst to everyone, Allie is walking right into a village with a penchant for murdering pretty girls.

Allie starts out as interesting, but she soon petered out for me. She never shows any initiative to learn about the mystery of the disappearing girls or to explore her surroundings, even though she supposedly missed living in the Fens and everyone there. As a result, the mystery stalls, and all Allie really does is moon over her attractive neighbor whom her father is desperately trying to marry her to or sulk because she's not getting her own way. Even when a beloved character is kidnapped (and you see it coming from a mile away), Allie doesn't spring to action. The mystery only really picks up steam when Adelia's ankle recovers enough for her to show up in the Fens for the last third of the novel to save both the village and the story. Unfortunately, Allie's lack of agency continues. She neither finds her friend through her own efforts nor even finishes off the villain. Overall, she's not much of a heroine, but comparing her to her mother Adelia makes her even more disappointing. Then, Norman teases readers that Allie might find a future at court with Eleanor of Aquitaine, which would really be something, but that also comes to nothing because Allie can't make her mind up about anything.

My favorite character was Penda. Readers may recognize her as the little girl from Franklin and Norman's other novel The Siege in Winter. Penda was fierce, efficient, bold, caring in her own way, and just so much fun. She lit up the page. It makes sense since Norman finished Penda's novel too. She probably felt more familiar with her, and it showed. She was, by far, the strongest character. As for the other characters - Adelia, Rowley, Glytha, Ulf - they aren't as strong or vivid with the exception of Rowley. Norman managed to capture his dual life fairly well, I thought.

While there was a lot of promise, ultimately, this book is not one I'll revisit. I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't have been better to just let the series end with the fourth book and let readers imagine everything turned out well for the characters at the end. I appreciate the attempt to conclude this famous series, but I really don't think the book added anything. It feels unnecessary, in my opinion, even as a standalone novel in its own merit.
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readerbug2 | 5 other reviews | Nov 16, 2023 |
A great follow-up to the Mistress of the Art of Death! Loved seeing some of my favorite characters from the first installment, even if only briefly. Adelia, Glytha, Mansur, and Rowley all grew so much in the year since the first book yet were still themselves. Even Henry II-lofty and real-showed another side of himself. Also loved meeting some new characters, even if some of them were dead. One of the things I admire about Franklin is her ability to integrate historical figures with fictional ones. The historical figures of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine are definitely larger than life, but they don't feel untouchable to the reader. It's a good balance.

The murders in this book (double mystery!) shocked in a different way compared to the first book. I was still gripping the book in anticipation! I will say this book felt a little slower and was a little more anti-climatic compared to the first book. Part of that was because there wasn't as much comedy or romance to break it up when the sleuthing stalled. Here's to hoping there's more of this in the third book!
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readerbug2 | 93 other reviews | Nov 16, 2023 |
There was so much to love about this book that I don't know where to begin my adoration. Great suspense, comedy, and romance. You'd think those last two pieces aren't necessary in a murder mystery, but you'd be wrong. The moments I 'awwed' or laughed out loud broke up the monotony of the horror of this book. It's about a child killer and molester. That's heavy stuff. The moments of brevity made the story digestible, rounded out the characters, and highlighted just how dastardly the villain is. The pacing and hitting of these different beats was impeccable, and I'm still impressed.

The characters in this were so memorable and well-rounded, even the minor ones. Sure, a couple of their fates were predictable. You can figure out who's going to to kidnapped or killed or fall in love, but the way they do it is very unique to them. Adelia, Rowley, Simon, Mansur, Glytha, Ulf, and Prior Geoffrey have defining personalities, and they feel like they should fit a trope but have enough quirks that they feel fresh.

I highly recommend this book for history buffs and murder mystery lovers. Neither element overpowers the other, and it's a chance to try something new with guaranteed exciting results.
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readerbug2 | 246 other reviews | Nov 16, 2023 |
I fought this book like it was a wild bear. But for some reason I just could not weather it. About halfway through I folded and gave up the ghost. Odd because I adore all the authors other work. This just fell flat for me. I understand the story and how a puritan from New England who is tossed into Reformation England could be polarized. The book is well very written and intelligent. But not very engaging. The characters did nothing for me. They came across exactly as the writer wanted them to be. Dirty, self-centered Londoners in the midst of plague and self absorption.… (more)
JHemlock | 6 other reviews | Oct 16, 2023 |



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