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Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death #1)

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  27,477 Ratings  ·  2,502 Reviews
A chilling, mesmerizing novel that combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the detail and drama of historical fiction. In medieval Cambridge, England, four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on the town's Jewish community, taken as evidence that Jews sacrifice Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. To save them from the riotin ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by G.P. Putnam's Sons (first published 2007)
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Lynne There was a romance but it was peripheral to the plot. Mainly it was a historical murder mystery.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Alienist by Caleb CarrThe Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónMistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Best Historical Mystery
5th out of 1,308 books — 3,371 voters
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa GregoryThe Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Best Historical Fiction
123rd out of 5,759 books — 22,127 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Alison Looney
Oct 20, 2008 Alison Looney rated it liked it
Being a feminist reader of historical fiction is to invite inner turmoil. Excessively plucky female characters seem inaccurate. Some are constantly winking at the reader, as if to say, "after graduating with my degree in women's studies, I opted to spend a few months time traveling so I could offer enlightened commentary on unenlightened times. I hope you appreciate my presence in your book!"

But, without those characters, I'd be even more annoyed (and depressed) by the frighteningly woman-unfrie
Mar 24, 2009 Nancy rated it really liked it
You know what I have really missed in my life? A Librarian. Not a librarian, small l, but a Librarian - that mystical, magical woman who watches what you read, and what you check out again and again, and who one day says to you: "You know what? I think you'd like THIS."

I like THIS. It's a mystery, set in medieval Cambridge; its heroine is a doctor, no, a coroner; there's a big mystery about murdered children (the Jews are being accused!), and also a charming (and unlikely) romance to add to the
Mar 10, 2016 Nikoleta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, historical
Ζωντανές περιγραφές και έξυπνοι διάλογοι, που κάνουν την αφήγηση να ρέει σαν νεράκι. Το βιβλίο μας εισάγει άμεσα και εύκολα στον μεσαιωνικό του κόσμο, χάρη στην έξυπνη αφήγηση της Ariana Franklin, η οποία δεν αραδιάζει στοιχεία για την εποχή λες και πρόκειται για μακροσκελή σχολική εργασία, αλλά η εισαγωγή μας γίνεται μέσα από την ίδια την πλοκή και τους ήρωες, επίσης φαίνεται ότι η μελέτη της γύρω από την μεσαιωνική Αγγλία ήταν προσεκτικότατη. Λάτρεψα όλους τους ήρωες, είχαν έντονες προσωπικότη ...more
Richard Derus
Mar 06, 2012 Richard Derus rated it really liked it
This book was a group read on LibraryThing...The Highly Rated Book Group sponsored it, with the game-though-gravid Vintage_Books leading us through some very trenchant questions about our impressions of both the book and the world it's set in...and thank goodness for that! It's a lot more fun to read a book in a group of like-minded people, ones who read on multiple levels like our brethren and sistern here on this site.

Adelia Vesuvia, our sleuth, is a forensic physician in a time when I didn't
May 08, 2016 Annet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, dark
I'm always looking for excellent historic fiction. There's so much around and not all books are best quality....
Like more readers here, as I understand it, I had trouble getting into this one, not an easy read, but once I got past that barrier, it was good and getting better and better... An intelligent medieval murder mystery, solid historical background, Plantagenet period (Henry II), interesting. Not really an easy read for me, so I had to stay focussed, which is okay, because it was good. As
Dec 30, 2009 Felicia rated it really liked it
I am a historical mystery geek, sometimes I'll go on a tear and read a whole series in a row, like the Peabody mysteries or Lindsay Davis' Rome mysteries, so I picked up this book after reading great reviews. I was not disappointed!

Very interesting setting, mainly compelling because of the main character,a medieval woman doctor. Felt well researched, a serial killer thriller set long ago in a fascinating world. Leans a bit too much in the "womanly" direction sometimes (I felt the romance was a b
Karly *The Vampire Ninja & Luminescent Monster*

F, is for Franklin

3 Stars

Okay, let’s get the trash out of the way first, shall we?!

Ms. Franklin:

(By which I mean, I would like you to go through your novel and remove EVERYTHING which is not important to the story you are telling *cough* stupid romantic sub-plot *cough*)

Now, to be fair, it is VERY romance light – and what is there doesn’t rear its ugly head until about 3/4 of the way through the novel, which is GOOD! – but I found it unnecessary and frankly annoying. Romance shouldn’t bleed i
Nov 14, 2009 Aimee rated it it was amazing
In coming to the decision to purchase this book, Mistress of the Art of Death, I did my background research first. I visited a fair few blogs that had reviewed the book, and found that the reviews were so entirely positive that I couldn't wait to get my grubby paws on the book myself. The bloggers were not wrong (thank the gods). This novel is a gloriously delicious read.

Set in the Middle Ages as a medieval mystery, our protagonist has been asked to travel to Cambridge (United Kingdom) from the
Nov 28, 2009 Diana rated it it was amazing
I was quite captivated by this book. As a medieval scholar, I had some initial doubts I'd like it because I am often disappointed by books that feature 20th/21st century concerns and situations in a medieval setting (investigating mysteries, forensic science, in this case). All too often, the authors don't get the historical elements right, and the story ends up being too anachronistic.

Ariana Franklin, however, knows her medieval history. The story is a page-turner as well, and the world Frankli
I started this 5 days ago. I was worried from the start that it would not be my cup of tea. For five days my head is telling me: Be patient! Don't be rash. Give this book a chance. You know those books that you cannot put down? Well this belongs instead with those books that you cannot motivate yourself to pick up. That is how it has been for me. Now this is only my opinion, and I am pretty darn sure that I am the "odd ball out" here! Why? Well because generally I do not like crime stories, but ...more
Apr 10, 2016 Alexa rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2016
This was... disappointing.

Some reviews explain this as CSI in medieval England, which I think is a great tag. We have a modern woman, in a modern profession during a time both things wouldn't have happened. You have to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy this novel, which I can do without a problem. However, the author tries to enforce some other period situations... I mean, if you’re taking liberties already, then why not take them all the way?

As for the plot, it was okay. The bad guy was pre
Dec 06, 2010 Rachel rated it did not like it
Shelves: mysteries
Ugh. Can I give a book zero stars? Where do I start? The anachronisms in this book could take up an entire review: feminism, religious tolerance, psychology, forensics and modern medical theory... I kid you not. The author has characters evesdropping on conversations in languages they don't speak. (Or do I assume that a 9-year old eel catcher in Cambridge speaks Arabic?) The plot is patchy and formulaic. The characters are completely one-dimensional and their relationships are not given any spac ...more
Nov 04, 2014 Jonfaith rated it it was ok
You are a drab, she told herself, seduced into infatuation by a soldier’s tale. Outremer, bravery, crusade, it is illusory romance.

Greg wrote this a few years back and the crux is applicable here. I was looking for a detour, something fun after so much Rome, plague and Theory. I found Ms. Franklin's premise interesting, if highly improbable. Such proceeded and the tale veered into the impossible. The protagonist maintains a bubble of certainty which is re
Sep 27, 2014 Brigid rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Read this pre-Goodreads. My opinions are my own:

Tamora Pierce
Feb 29, 2012 Tamora Pierce rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical, adult, mystery
This is the first in the Mistress of the Art of Death series, introducing Adelia, a doctor of medicine who is also trained in forensic medicine at the University of Salerno in Italy (a university which taught Christian, Jew, and Muslim alike) and her manservant the Saracen Mansur, a eunuch. When four small children are murdered in Cambridge, one of them seemingly crucified, the townspeople turn on the Jews of the city, who flee to the sheriff's castle for protection. Henry II needs the Jews for ...more
Beth (moonivy)
Sep 03, 2007 Beth (moonivy) rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: historical fiction/mystery fans.
Read 8/23-8/29/07

Mistress of the Art of Death tells the tale of Adelia, a "doctor to the dead" in the 12th century. Dispatched from her academic existence at the University of Salerno to medieval Cambridge to investigate the gruesome death of four
children, Adelia is forced to hide her true identity and attempt to blend in with the provincial English folk. Alternately horrified and fascinated, Adelia struggles to fulfill her mission, dodging danger and deceit at every turn, and maintain her sens
Children are being kidnapped in Cambridge, England, and one body has been found; local Jews are being blamed for their deaths. In order to identify the true murderer, a doctor specializing in autopsies comes to Cambridge from Salernobut the doctor, Adelia, is female, and the year is 1171. A combination historical fiction and crime drama, Mistress of the Art of Death is a mediocre example of both: anachronisms litter the 12th Century setting, and the detective work is adequately plotted but unexc ...more
Apr 18, 2008 Annie rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008_books
Despite the authors note at the back about the importance of historical authenticity, this book didn't seem historically authentic at all. Jewish-raised, Greek foundling, Sicilian female doctor in 12th century England unmasks a serial-killing sexual deviant, hangs out with Henry II, and endears herself to everyone around (except the serial-killing sexual deviant...SPOILER!)? Wouldn't it be better to just say: I know this situation is totally implausible, but the setting is historically accurate? ...more
Jul 01, 2016 Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Αυτό το βιβλίο όταν μου πρότειναν να το διαβάσω, δεν μου γέμισε το μάτι. Η εκδοτική που το έβγαλε δεν του φέρθηκε τόσο καλά όσο θα έπρεπε. Το εξώφυλλο δεν είναι καλό και δεν το έχει προωθήσει όσο χρειάζεται, εγώ προσωπικά πριν πέσει στα χέρια μου δεν το είχα ξαναδεί. Με τράβηξε όμως και με έβαλε στο κόσμο του απο την πρώτη του σελίδα ως και την τελευταία. Διαδραματίζεται γύρω στο 1150 όταν η εκκλησία ήταν ακόμα ενάντια στην ιατρική. Μια κοπέλα γιατρός ταξιδεύει στην Αγγλία μαζί με ένα Εβραίο για ...more
Jun 01, 2012 Kelly rated it liked it
This book is hard to rate; I think I'd give it about a 2.75. It held my attention throughout. It had a couple of moments that sent shivers down my spine. And I'm not sure I won't read more in the Adelia series. But there are some technical issues with Mistress of the Art of Death, and more importantly, I feel like Mistress took me to darker places than I wanted to go, and didn't have enough of anything else to make it worth the trip.

Everything after this is a SPOILER. Also, this is not a formal
Four and a half stars.
A historical thriller, The Mistress of the Art of Death, will rival modern day forensic medicine novels. The story combines medieval England in the 1200 century, crusader knights, questionable nuns, suspicious monks, and, a sly King Henry II, not to mention, four horribly mutilated dead children and the Jewish community that stands accused of these atrocities. The people of Cambridge believe the Jews have crucified their children in a passover rite. Then, add to this explos
Apr 09, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it
Recommends it for: CSI fans, historical fiction, crusade fiction, 11th century Europe, Medieval Murder Mystery
Shelves: adult-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I both enjoyed and was dissappointed by this story.

I'm sure this book was originally recommended to me because of the Jewish aspect but although they did provide a little (a lot less than I expected) background colour, for the most part I felt their inclusion was a Macguffin, useful in that the frequent historical Blood Libels gave the author a good excuse for gory child murder.

I also found Adelia's character a little flat and distant. She kept telling me how she felt about things but I rarely
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
It is 1171, and four children in Cambridge have been horribly murdered. The locals blame the resident Jews, and have lynched two of them, and the others have fled for safety to the local royal castle. Henry II, who values his Jews because they are worth so much tax revenue, has sent to Sicily for an investigator, or "fixer," and a "master of the art of death," who can say exactly how the children died. What he gets is Simon of Naples (the investigator), a mistress of the art of death, one Vesuvi ...more
Jun 27, 2008 Melissa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was CSI Miami meets a 12th Century England serial pedophile just didn't work for me. I thought the author was repetitive...I spent much of the book skimming pages. There were some very graphic imagery describing the children and the suspects...could have done without all of those, and I don't consider myself a prude.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Mar 09, 2014 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of Historical Mysteries
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Kandice's Gift
This historical mystery set in Henry II's England was the gift of a friend. Thank you, Kandice, you chose well. The central figure in the novel, Adelia Aguilar of Salerno, is a "Mistress of the Art of Death"--the closest thing the middle ages had to a medical examiner. And as unlikely as it might seem, a female doctor like Adelia is not a politically correct anachronism, was not unique--although she comes from perhaps the only place in the world that could have produced her. For from the 11th to ...more
May 07, 2016 Suzanne rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Diana Gabaldon
Part of the reason why I enjoy the "Outlander" series is that there are sub-stories of crimes and mysteries woven into it, plus the lead character is a strong-willed woman who practices medicine at a time when women were not allowed to be doctors. With "Mistress of the Art of Death," we meet Adelia Aguilar, a strong-willed woman trained as a "doctor to the dead" (study of corpses), living in 1171, who is assigned to investigate a series of murders. It's not as strong as "Outlander," and went muc ...more
Jul 08, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it
Overall, this is a very good mystery. The characters are well drawn, the amount of historical detail in the novel is impressive, though Franklin doesn't whack you over the head with "look at how much I know" syndrome.

Mistress tells the story of Adelia, who as some other reviewers (hi, Anita) have pointed out is a bit too modern. Adelia is to accompany Simon to Cambridge so they can discover who is murdering the children. Normally, they wouldn't want to set foot in England, but they've been orde
Aug 10, 2012 Sheri rated it did not like it
Disappointing. Once again we have the anachronistic feminist: few women in 1920 would reject a solid marriage to a man they love; in 1171 it was not possible. I do not know the historical accuracy of female doctors in Salerno, but would hope that Franklin did her research and am gonna assume that at least that much is true. However, at the end of the book Adelia is certainly enamored with Cambridge. She has transformed from the singular student in the Ivory Tower of Salerno to a doctor of the ma ...more
A child has been murdered in Cambridge and 3 more are missing. The Jews of Cambridge have been blamed for the murder of the child and the local nuns have taken the body, boiled it down to bones, declared the child a saint and are charging pennies to touch a bone and be healed. Wow. In the meantime the Jews are hiding in the Castle where they have been given protection much to the anger of the townspeople. King Henry II contacts the King of Sicily requesting an investigator and a forensic doctor ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • When Gods Die (Sebastian St. Cyr #2)
  • Silent in the Sanctuary (Lady Julia Grey, #2)
  • The Rhetoric of Death
  • Veil of Lies (Crispin Guest, #1)
  • Fortune Like the Moon (Hawkenlye Mysteries, #1)
  • Death Comes As Epiphany (Catherine LeVendeur, #1)
  • Persona Non Grata (Gaius Petreius Ruso, #3)
  • Prince of Darkness  (Justin de Quincy, #4)
  • A Mortal Bane (Magdalene La Batarde, #1)
  • The Unquiet Bones (Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon Chronicles #1)
  • The Black Tower
  • Instruments of Darkness (Crowther and Westerman, #1)
Ariana Franklin was the pen name of British writer Diana Norman. A former journalist, Norman had written several critically acclaimed biographies and historical novels. She lived in Hertfordshire, England, with her husband, the film critic Barry Norman.

The Death Maze (UK) is published as The Serpent's Tale in the US.
Relics of the Dead (UK) is published as Grave Goods in the US.
The Assassin'
More about Ariana Franklin...

Other Books in the Series

Mistress of the Art of Death (4 books)
  • The Serpent's Tale (Mistress of the Art of Death, #2)
  • Grave Goods (Mistress of the Art of Death, #3)
  • A Murderous Procession (Mistress of the Art of Death, #4)

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