Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Review: Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Title: Mistress of the Art of Death
Author: Ariana Franklin
Genre: Historical/Crime Fiction
Publisher: Transworld 2007
387 p

Mistress of the Art of Death first came to my notice when I read a review by Aimee at My Fluttering Heart and I had the feeling I would really like this mixture of crime and history. I wasn't to be disappointed for this is one of the most entertaining books I've read in a long time.

Synopsis: England in the 12th century and in Cambridge a child has been hideously murdered and other children have disappeared. The Jews, made scapegoats by the all-powerful Christian clergy, have been forced to retreat into the castle to avoid slaughter by angry townspeople.

Henry II is displeased as the Jews provide a large part of his revenue and therefore the killer must be found , and quickly. A renowned investigator, Simon of Naples, is recruited, and arrives in town with an Arab and a young woman, Adelia Aguilar.

Not the average 12th century woman as she has trained as a doctor and her speciality now is the study of corpses, a skill that must be concealed in case she is accused of witchcraft.

Think medieval Kay Scarpetta. A feisty and independent young woman is Adelia and determined to remain celibate and single in order to focus on her work. She makes a wonderful central character in a story which has a cast of unique individuals who often seem larger than life and whose antics provide a great deal of humour. The first few pages are a delight as we first meet most of the main players returning from a pilgrimage to Canterbury.

It's a fast paced mystery that I found hard to put down as it romped through murder, mayhem and a touch of romance, tempting Adelia to stray from her chosen path, but what stops it from being just another lightweight crime is the historical background. It never overpowers but it gives a glimpse of 12th century life from the struggle of everyday living to the wider issues of social reform and religious intolerance.

I loved it and look forward to reading more of Ariana Franklin.

Rating *****

ABC Historical Fiction Challenge.


  1. Thanks so much for participating in our Alphabet in Historical Fiction challenge!

    I love reading Ariana Franklin's books, as well as the books that she wrote under the name Diana Norman. I just recently read Grave Goods which is the third book in the Adelia series and I am now waiting very impatiently for the next book.

    By the way, I saw the Thriller and Suspense challenge button in your sidebar. I hadn't heard about that one before. Going to have to give it some serious consideration.

  2. Hi Marg,

    I look forward to reading more of Ariana Franklin and I didn't realise she also wrote under another name so will keep my eyes open for them as well.

    Thanks for visiting......haven't had time yet to see what everyone else in the challenge is reading but will get to that soon

  3. Oh Cat I am so glad you enjoyed it! it really was entertaining wasnt it?!



  4. Hi Aimee,

    It sure was and I love the thought of more to come.