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Mistress of the Art of Death

(Mistress of the Art of Death #1)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  40,549 ratings  ·  3,038 reviews
Adelia Aguilar is a rare thing in medieval Europe - a woman who has trained as a doctor. Her speciality is the study of corpses, a skill that must be concealed if she is to avoid accusations of witchcraft.

But in Cambridge a child has been murdered, others are disappearing, and King Henry has called upon a renowned Italian investigator to find the killer - fast.

What the kin
Paperback, 512 pages
Published March 10th 2008 by Bantam Books (first published February 6th 2007)
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Tess Philipps I don't think so. It's got a smattering of a love story but I absolutely do not think of it as romance. I learned some historical facts in the first f…moreI don't think so. It's got a smattering of a love story but I absolutely do not think of it as romance. I learned some historical facts in the first few pages of the book. They are just well written and fun to read!(less)

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Oct 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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. Wi
Mar 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Richard Derus
Oct 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Real Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: 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 rioting mob, the king places the Cambridge Jews under his protection and hides them in
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Start with Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." Throw in a cameo of a calculating and brash King Henry II straight from "The Lion in Winter." Add some medieval mystery on par with Umberto Eco's groundbreaking "The Name of the Rose". And finish it off with the forensics of "CSI", and you'll have some appreciation for Ariana Franklin's remarkable achievement in "Mistress of the Art of Death", a fresh and inspired twist of historical fiction and crime thriller, a blockbuster of murder and mayhem told thro ...more
Dec 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Heidi The Reader
A medieval mystery in which Simon of Naples, a eunuch and a unique woman with the ability to decipher the wounds inflicted on bodies, race to discover the identity of a violent killer of children before he strikes again.

From its opening lines, The Mistress of the Art of Death had me in its thrall. "Here they come. From down the road we can hear harnesses jingling and see dust rising into the warm spring sky. Pilgrims returning after Easter in Canterbury. Tokens of the mitered, martyred Saint Tho
Nov 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Karlyflower *The Vampire Ninja, Luminescent Monster & Wendigo Nerd Goddess of Canada (according to The Hulk)*

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 blee
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An Italian female physician/pathologist is sent to England to solve the murder of a few children. Almost 5 stars. It's written with humor and I really enjoyed it. Thank you Annet for the recommendation! ...more
Dec 01, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dana Ilie
Medieval CSI and a bad ass woman doctor. I definitely will continue this series.
Tamora Pierce
Sep 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, historical, 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
3.5 stars. I wasn't sure at the beginning of this book if I would like this. For some reason, I was having trouble comprehending. I'm not even sure if that is an accurate way to describe it. But then it all came together and I really enjoyed the story. Set in the Middle Ages, this book satisfied my historical fiction addiction. I love the premise of there being forensic pathology in that time period (even if it probably isn't historically accurate) and a woman being the doctor. The "bad guy", th ...more
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
It took me some time to read this book cause I've got exams coming up, not because I didn't like it..

If you like history books, you will be pleasantly surprised with this book, I mean I liked it and I don't like historical fiction, not even Phillipa Gregory's books. I like how the main character is witty smart, intelligent girl, who is pretty independent considering the time the book was set in.
Also, the plot is great, you've got the crime, but not many details about it, which tbh I was glad th
Sep 27, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Read this pre-Goodreads. My opinions are my own:

I do tend to massively adore and enjoy historical mysteries as a genre, and thus decided to finally give the late Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death a perusal, as I am always and in particular looking for new and interesting Medieval mysteries (and the novel did look personally appealing, both due to its setting in Medieval Cambridge, as well as having received a goodly number of appreciative and even glowing reviews). And indeed, some of my most trusted GR friends actually consider ...more
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can't say I haven't come across a female "doctor to the dead" before, not in print nor film- but never one from Salerno of the 12th century. And she isn't the only finely carved and incredibly detailed character in this one.

It's long, and the introduction to a series- so this trio has traveled to Cambridge in England for a reason- very specific request to investigate the cause of children's deaths that are being blamed on the Jews.

For me the people did become real and knowable, especially some
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent historical crimefiction about an 12 th century female pathologist. Interesting period in England, i know almost nothing about. Well written. Absolutely love it. Thanks Annet and Suzanne for the recommending reviews!
Beth (moonivy)
Aug 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ashley Daviau
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up a year or so ago at a huge used book sale just because the title intrigued me and I’m so glad I did because I enjoyed this book so much! I actually sat down and read it in one sitting without moving and I rarely do that, I’ll normally take little breaks to do other things but with this book I just sat there and compulsively turned the pages until I was done. It was such an interesting and intriguing story, I’ve never read anything quite like it before and I was just fascinated t ...more
May 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 20, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I hate to not finish a book but I have to put this one aside. It's due at the library in a few days and I just couldn't get into it. It's not a bad book though, just not my scene :) ...more
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 Salerno—but 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 unex ...more
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant story telling.
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
MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH (Historical-Adelia Aguilar-England-1170) – Ex
Franklin, Ariana (aka Diana Norman) – 1st in series
Bantam Press, 2007, UK Hardcover – ISBN: 9780593056493
First Sentence: Here they come.
*** A child has been murdered and residents in Cambridge claim he was crucified by the Jews. The Jews provide Henry II with a large part of his revenue and requires that the real killer be quickly found. From Naples come Simon of Naples, an renowned investigator, Mansur the Saracen, and a
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Play Book Tag: [Poll Ballot] Mistress of the Art of Death - 3 stars 1 13 Jun 08, 2020 08:12PM  
Play Book Tag: Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin 3 18 Jan 05, 2020 06:14PM  
What would you consider the greatest flaws of the series? 10 138 Jul 04, 2018 04:09PM  
Knjigom u glavu: Knjiga meseca 12 178 Sep 07, 2016 03:12AM  
Literally Geeky: Share your thoughts 6 17 Jul 26, 2016 11:30AM  

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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'

Other books in the series

Mistress of the Art of Death (5 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)
  • Death and the Maiden (Mistress of the Art of Death #5)

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