Kathleen Hagen's Reviews > Mistress of the Art of Death

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
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Feb 20, 10

bookshelves: 2010-audio-books, 2010-mysteries
Read in January, 2010

Mistress of the Art of Death, by Ariana Franklin, A. Narrated by Rosalyn Landor, produced by Penguin Audio, downloaded from audible.com.

This is a medieval mystery, set in the 1200’s in Cambridge England. Four children have been murdered. The Catholic community blames the Jews, and King Henry II, unwilling to lose the taxes he can collect from the Jews, locks them up for protection in a castle. He also asks his cousin, the King of Sicily, to send an investigator to unravel the murders. The king sends not only an investigator but a “doctor trained in the art of death”, that is, the early forensics investigation techniques. The doctor sent, unknown to Henry II until the doctor arrives, is a woman. She must pretend not to be the real doctor but the assistant to her assistant, a male who plays the real doctor. Women are not allowed to practice medicine in England so if she were uncovered as the doctor she might be charged with witchcraft. But what she and her colleagues don’t realize is that the closer they come to the truth, the more at risk they themselves are for being murdered. The murderer may have been a crusader. Adelia, the doctor, also falls in love with a tax collector. But she had sworn never to marry because it would conflict with her being a doctor. Will she give up this dream of being a doctor to marry her tax collector and bear him children? And if she doesn’t, will her heart remain broken? It’s a wonderful book. I wasn’t so keen on the love interest. That made it more of a harlequin romance, but the mystery was great, the historical context was wonderful-and I say that even though I usually don’t like historical mysteries, and the characters were well drawn. At the beginning and end of the book, Franklin introduces her characters just as if we were observers watching them pass by. I love the gimmick. It worked for me.

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