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Combining the best of modern forensic thrillers with the drama of medieval fiction, New York Times' bestselling author Ariana Franklin returns with the third title in the Mistress of the Art of Death series.

England, 1176. Beautiful, tranquil Glastonbury Abbey—one of England's holiest sites, and believed by some to be King Arthur's sacred Isle of Avalon—has been burned almost to the ground. The arsonist remains at large, but the fire has uncovered something even more shocking: two hidden skeletons, a man and a woman. The skeletons' height and age send rumors flying- are the remains those of Arthur and Guinevere?

King Henry II hopes so. Struggling to put down a rebellion in Wales, where the legend of Celtic savior Arthur is particularly strong, Henry wants definitive proof that the bones are Arthur's. If the rebels are sure that the Once and Future King will not be coming to their aid, Henry can stamp out the insurgence for good. He calls on Adelia Aguilar, Mistress of the Art of Death, to examine the bones.

Henry's summons comes not a moment too soon, for Adelia has worn out her welcome in Cambridge. As word of her healing powers has spread, so have rumors of witchcraft. So Adelia and her household ride to Glastonbury, where the investigation into the abbey fire will be overseen by the Church authorities—in this case, the Bishop of St. Albans, who happens also to be the father of Adelia's daughter.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Ariana Franklin

11 books1,047 followers
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's Prayer (UK) is published as A Murderous Procession in the US.

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5 stars
3,947 (34%)
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3 stars
2,045 (18%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 945 reviews
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews714 followers
December 27, 2018
A richly detailed, almost indecently thrilling mystery... NYT Book Review; The attention to historical detail is flawless...Denver Post; Adelia is a fascinating creation... USA Today

What a great great historical series this is. Full of atmosphere, character, history, a sense, taste, smell and feel of the dark ages... in the times and presence of the characterful Henry II Plantagenet... and the independent and self-made, own minded wonderful Adelia, Mistress of the Art of Death. A whole set of colorful characters that come alive when you read this series. And great stories, vivid, dark, bleak, intelligent and heartwarming at the same time! Way above the average historical fiction, 4.5 for me. And such a pity that I only have one more book to go in this series.... Highly recommended & more to follow!

Here's the story: England 1176, beautiful tranquil Glastonbury Abbey, according to legend, the last resting place of King Arthur - has been burned to the ground. The arsonist remains at large but the fire has uncovered the hidden skeletons of a man and a woman... could these be Arthur and Guinevere? King Henry II hopes so. Struggling to put down a rebellion in Wales, Henry wants proof, so he can stamp out the Celtic rebellion for good. He sends for his mistress of the art of death Adelia Aguilar to examine the bones.... and so the story begins....

Note, this book is also known under an alternative title: Relics of the dead (more of Franklin's books have alternative titles I noticed)
Profile Image for Kevin.
1,347 reviews58 followers
August 6, 2017
I really love this series that starts with "The Mistress of the Art of Death!". The story combines the history of Henry II with forensic medicine. My highest recommendation!

"England, 1176. Beautiful, tranquil Glastonbury Abbey— one of England’s holiest sites, and believed by some to be King Arthur’s sacred Isle of Avalon —has been burned almost to the ground. The arsonist remains at large, but the fire has uncovered something even more shocking: two hidden skeletons, a man and a woman. The skeletons’ height and age send rumors flying— that they are the remains of Arthur and Guinevere?

King Henry II hopes so. Struggling to put down a rebellion in Wales, where the legend of Celtic savior Arthur is particularly strong, Henry wants definitive proof that the bones are Arthur’s. If the rebels are sure that the Once and Future King will not be coming to their aid, Henry can stamp out the insurgence for good. He calls on Adelia Aguilar, Mistress of the Art of Death, to examine the bones.

Henry’s summons comes not a moment too soon, for Adelia has worn out her welcome in Cambridge. As word of her healing powers has spread, so have rumors of witchcraft. So Adelia and her household ride to Glastonbury, where the investigation into the abbey fire will be overseen by the Church authorities—in this case, the Bishop of St. Albans, who happens also to be the father of Adelia’s daughter."
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,860 reviews1,898 followers
December 17, 2022
Volume three of the ongoing adventures had by Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, mistress of the art of death serving (with diminishing ill humor) the stalwart lawgiving Henry II Platagenet, murderer of "St." Thomas a Becket.

Oh, why waste time? This is the best of the three extant adventures, hands down, and a damn good book by itself. I can't see why a person even moderately interested in mysteries wouldn't like it, since the suspense over several events' sources and outcomes was quite painful to me...others, well, not so much, but I was still eager to see Vesuvia Adelia reason her way to the place I'd got to by intuition.

I wish to dwell upon the nature of history for a moment. Stop reading if you don't care. In the creation of historical novels, certain things have to be anachronistic. There is simply no other way to bring the past to life. The paradox is obvious: To understand the past, we have to change its shape. Historians do this with analysis, of facts and data that we simply can't be certain are reliable; the older the facts, the more suspect, and no amount of separate corroboration of the suspected facts is really reliable because *we weren't there* and so have no idea where the separate sources gleaned or gained their information.

Historical novelists do the same thing, only they don't hide behind pretenses to knowledge they can't fully claim to have. They're novelists, and they reorder and invent and embroider as the tale being told demands. The best ones tell us the ways in which they stray from established frameworks of history. That's all very nice, and as someone interested in history, I appreciate it; but in the end, it's really unnecessary because it's a novel, we know going into reading it that it's a novel, and that means *they made it up*.

Ariana Franklin's "Author's Note" in this volume is what brought this rant on; she makes apologies for reordering the accepted dates of certain very large events in this book, but the sources that tell us of these events are suspect anyway! And in any case, events 900+ years ago aren't precisely datable by ANY source without the possibility of error because the calendar, such as it was, lacked any agreed universality such as we have now.

I don't see the need for this type of apologia. Do others disagree with me?

ETA: Oh yeah...highly, highly recommended and go get it at once because it's a page-turning thrill ride through the twelfth century!
Profile Image for Katyana.
1,441 reviews180 followers
October 6, 2014
I really like this series. I love the characters, and particularly Adelia. I love the pacing, the mysteries, the historical setting. I love Henry II, even though he drives me batty sometimes.

What I really don't love is Rowley. In previous books, I sort of managed to put up with him - he manages to be less annoying as the plot thickens, and he generally isn't around much before then.

The reason I dislike Rowley is this: he doesn't love Adelia. Not really. He hates all the parts of her that she cherishes. He hates that she is a doctor. He hates that she is educated. He hates that she is driven to seek out truth. He wants her to be a typical fainting lady. He expected her to give up her whole life to marry him and while away her life in his manor somewhere, sheltered and bored. And he will never forgive her for saying no.

Why does he think he loves her? He hates everything that makes her who she is. And even worse, why does Adelia - wonderful, brilliant, just warrior that she is - think she loves him? She deserves better. Because in the end, that's what it boils down to for me:

Rowley doesn't deserve her. Not by a mile.

I'd frankly rather see her with Henry. At least Henry appreciates her. Realizes how incredible she is, what a gift she has. Recognizes that it can't be, SHOULDN'T be, cast away. Of course, Henry II and Adelia will never end up together - that would cross too many lines in historical fiction, something that Franklin works hard not to do in this series. But regardless, Henry would be better for her than Rowley, stupid Rowley who can't appreciate her, and just wants to make her something that she isn't. And this book made me angry, in the end, because Adelia changed her mind and agreed to try to be something she isn't, for HIM. Stupid, condescending, ignorant, pompous Rowley.

I hope it doesn't ruin the series for me. *sigh*
Profile Image for Hannah Sillars.
15 reviews23 followers
February 19, 2016
This book horrified and offended me. In all honesty and fairness, you should know I'm writing this while waiting for lasagna to finish heating. Hunger may make me a more biting reviewer than usual.

There's lots of good in Ariana Franklin's writing. I so enjoyed "The Siege Winter" due to her vivid descriptions of medieval life, specifically of the castle siege, and the endearing cast of characters she created. That book suffered from the same faults as "Grave Goods," but I felt like I was being hit over the head with the problems in this book.

The problems? My old history prof called it "presentism," which is the fault of looking at history only through modern eyes. It killed this book. The characters are wooden--really, they are more stereotypes than characters. The main protagonist, Ms. Aguilar, is truly a modern woman somehow, inexplicably in a medieval setting. She doesn't have much personality (and isn't all that charming either), except for feeling indignant at all the things a modern person might find reprehensible about the Middle Ages. She doesn't seem to believe that religion is anything other than a salve for emotionally weak people, or a tool for power-hungry despots. In short, she thinks like a modern secular feminist, and it's not believable given the setting. It's one thing to write a forward-thinking character; it's altogether another to build an entire "personality" based on personal indignation at everyone around her and portray her as a thoroughly modern woman.

This is highlighted by the side-characters: The Catholic priests are either naive or sinister, and the Catholic church is merely a overbearing social construct, rather than, you know, a religion. Mansur, a Muslim, is described in a way that hearkens back to British colonial descriptions of the "exotic." His religion is respected (unlike the Catholics') as mystical, but largely not based in reality. He's vaguely wise and guru-like, but without any dimension or complexity.

One big plot point that felt like a caricature of the Middle Ages (tiny spoiler): Ms. Aguilar, in a previous book, decides not to marry the guy she loves because she believes marriage will interfere with her work. It's all very feminist and high-minded, right? Except that the man who wants to marry her is a noble, and historically, the responsibility of the "woman of the manor" was to learn medicine. They were expected to be trained (as well as they could in that day) on herbs and remedies. Ms. Aguilar is a doctor, so marriage to a noble lord would not have been the death-knell of her work; it would have likely given her a greater opportunity to do it.

I so wanted to enjoy this book. But it felt more like an exhausting parade through stereotypes than a good story with strong characters.
Profile Image for LJ.
3,156 reviews313 followers
April 9, 2009
First Sentence: “And God was angry with His people of Somerset so that, in the year of Our Lord 1154. pm the day after the feast of Saint Stephen, He caused an earthquake that it might punish them for their sins…” Thus wrote Brother Caradoc in Saint Michael’s chapel in top of Glastonbury Tor, to which he’d scrambled, gasping and sobbing, so as to escape the devastation that God with his earthquake had wrought on everything below it.

King Henry II is fighting to suppress the rebellious Welsh, who still believe the Ancient King Arthur will rise up to rescue them. One of Henry’s prisoners tells of a vision his uncle had 20 year’s earlier of seeing monks bury Arthur at Glastonbury. Henry orders that there be an attempt to find Arthur’s bones and sends for Adelia to make the verification.

When an Ariana Franklin book shows up at my door, all other life stops. Franklin is an author from whom I know I shall get a wonderful story. This book was no exception.

With historical mysteries, I always start by reading the Author’s Notes. I like knowing what is historically accurate and what liberties have been taken. In this case; there were not many. The depth of research is evident and educational. Herbs, weapons, law, forensic science, and medicine during this period are masterfully woven into the story.

Franklin’s writing is so visual; it is as if watching a film. The descriptions are rich and, even when the scenes are unpleasant, so well done. I liked the use of lucid dreams, the inclusion of Excalibur and a very nasty version of Robin Hood and his men.

The characters are wonderful. Adelia is smart, strong and caring. Although focused on her task at hand, she is even more concerned about her friend, Emma, who, along with her son and staff, has disappeared. All the characters are three dimensional and believable, although I shall always hear Henry II as having Peter O’Toole’s voice.

The dialogue is often funny providing laughter amidst the drama, as is true in life.

Is this a perfect book? No, as there are a few too many coincidences. Is it a great read? With humor, drama, suspense and a dash of romance: Absolutely!

GRAVE GOODS (Hist. Mys-Adelia Aguilar-England-1176) – VG+
Franklin, Ariana – 3rd in series
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009, US Hardcover – ISBN: 9780399155444

Profile Image for Ellie.
1,456 reviews366 followers
July 22, 2017
This is a wonderful series. It takes place during medieval times but features a strong woman, well-educated and successful. The mystery itself is, to me, secondary to the portrayal of the time and the characters, especially the lead.

It's such a shame Franklin died so young! So many more books waiting to be written.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,209 reviews548 followers
July 28, 2017
As this is series book #3, I am well into the larger tale now. And I truly enjoyed this one. The plot was better and the characters met within the motives and group cultures of loyalty adding much more to the story than they did in book #2. #2 had so much wanderings up and back that a lot of the continuity to whole story was lost. Not this time. Adelia is also far more mature, and seems much more melted to nature and womanhood than she was in the former books. Her self-identity changing. She's separated her independence requirements necessary for her work from the granite rigidity of her set in stone ideals of frozen and singular detachment. It gives her another whole level of warmth, and with the maturation an acceptance (more adaptable) of/for non-perfect and yet human companionship. Her warmth and concern for Emma and her boy also deepen on that score, just as much as for Rowley. And the different mode of life that Rowley might come to represent.

I really liked this book as a whole piece structured individual tale/episode. And it it was easier read after the first quarter than all the rest of the series so far. Because it rather departed from the heaviness of the archaic prose and little by little was transformed into much more modern dialog and narrator think. Too much so. That's what is wrong if you would be picky. Adelia is thinking and connoting nuance far beyond her own time's possibilities.

But I forgive the revisionism, because the rest of the tale is so well done. Hilda, Eustace and several other under characters were sliced perfectly. And the tithing group on a whole, just marvelous in the point of Englishness- how that system of blame, guilt, connection evolves. As does the jury later in Henry's sneakiness to a "new" means to afford guilt. Or not.

Of the three I have read so far, this one I liked the best. Allie and Gyltha have some great lines.

Like this one that I LOVED. Am I with Gyltha on the melodramatic sigh masters and tear jerker poets.

"Look at him," Glytha said in disgust. "Happy as a pig in shit now he's miserable."

People complain about the tendency to impart 18th or 20th century underpinnings on some of the slants. And I hear them. It's true. And very true for this particular book.

But I still enjoyed it to a 4 star and it was fully 4 star in clever intersect too. And I hope that miserable old Lady Dowager Wolvercote gets her own ilk back in the next one. What a truly nasty woman. I also hope that Ariana Franklin does not repeat the number of times she uses all of Adelia 5 names in the next book, as she did in this book. It's beyond annoying, and I didn't like that name call regime when I was 10 years old and I still don't like it now.

I did like the Author's Note section too with the information about Excalibur's later locations and all the detail about medieval weaponry in this book, as well.
Profile Image for Ingrid.
1,179 reviews45 followers
July 16, 2018
Again a great story with a lot of historical facts thrown in.
Profile Image for Eva.
241 reviews63 followers
August 4, 2017
Two bodies are discouvered at Glastonbury abbey. Are they King Arthur and Queen Guinevere? Mistress of the dead Adelia Aguilar is called upon by King Henry II to investigate. Number 3 in the series about 12th century pathologist Adelia and her Saracen protector. A very interesting historical crimenovel in a very interesting period. I enjoy reading about Henri Plantagenet and his reforms of the law. Recommended! I Will read up on Henry Plantagenet soon.
Profile Image for Bookish Ally.
482 reviews44 followers
October 9, 2019
I really enjoy this series. Love the characters (the villains - usually more than one - are very villainous and come to terrible ends as our sense of justice demands).

As for this, we still have our peculiar lead character, a woman who can be belligerent and loving on the same page, humble and prideful and very self conflicted (even she knows it). We still have the lovable sidekick characters, and of course THE BISHOP.

A lovely mystery to untangle in the unlovely and circuitous way that the case demands.

Try to start at book 1, but you don’t have to, she gives enough details to catch up (but why would you want to) I keep coming back for more.
Profile Image for Carolyn F..
3,358 reviews51 followers
May 21, 2019

As I'm working my way through these books and really enjoying them, it saddens me that the author has passed away. I love how the main character is finally putting ego aside - lady you made this situation what it is - and following her passion. Good story, loved the afterward by the author regarding where she found inspiration. Great series, great book, great narrator Kate Reading
Profile Image for Ivana.
618 reviews52 followers
February 8, 2019
Po dlhšom čase som sa vrátila do sveta vykladačky smrti Adélie. Tento raz som sa ocitla priamo v Glastonbury na prahu mýtického Avalonu, kde sa objavili dve kostry a vyzerá to tak, že Henrich II. objavil miesto odpočinku Artuša a Guinevery. A Adélie je tá, ktorá to má potvrdiť. Lenže to by nebola mladá vykladačka, keby sa to celé neskomplikovalo. A že služba pre plantagenetovského kráľa je opäť raz smrteľne nebezpečná, sa Adélie s priateľmi presvedčí zas a znovu.

Opäť výborný detektívny príbeh, motívy ľudských slabostí sú tak ako vždy prítomné. Atmosféra je veľmi dobre vykreslená, staré postavy sú tu, objavujú sa nové, všetko ako má byť. A nad celým príbehom sa vznášajú hmly Avalonu.
Profile Image for Felicia.
Author 28 books128k followers
December 25, 2011
Again, really enjoyed this book, it's one of my fave historical series! Adelia is a great character, a woman with more modern sensibilities that don't seem forced into the Henry II era. The attention to detail and historical research is, as usual, stunning. The more accurate mythology about King Arthur was interesting to see, enough so that I did EXTRA research after I finished the book. I loved the sense of unease and threat that encompassed this book, you knew bad stuff was gonna go down, but didn't know from where. I thought the plotting was really well done. I have one complaint though (that bleeds into my utter dislike of the next book in the series).

I like mystery series because they are somewhat stand alone. I can pick one up 6 months after reading the previous and not be lost. To introduce a character that bleeds over into the next book in a big way was super annoying to me, partially because he was set up as a bad guy loose-end that needed to be dealt with through the last 1/3rd of the book. I kept waiting and I can't tell you how annoyed I was to see the dude in the last page being ominous. UUUUGH. Well whatever, still a great book, highly recommended.
Profile Image for Michael.
218 reviews44 followers
March 30, 2009
The third and latest in the "Mistress of the Art of Death" series, historical mysteries by Ariana Franklin (aka Diana Norman) set in late 12th century England, is the best of the lot. Mistress of the Art of Death, the first book, was well done. The author stumbled a bit with the second, The Serpent's Tale, but she has found her stride with the current offering. Set in Glastonbury and wrapped in the mists of Avalon, the work is a must for anyone besotted with the Matter of Britain. Adelia, the mistress of the art of death (a kind of medieval forensic pathologist trained at Salerno), is a worthy successor to the Brother Cadfael of Ellis Peters, who pursued his forensic investigations earlier in the 12th century during the wars of King Stephen and the Empress Maud. Adelia works in the time of Henry II and at his command. Like Elizabeth Peters in her Amelia Peabody series (at least in the earlier and better of those), Ariana Franklin is not afraid of humor. Suspense, humor, romance, and interesting historical interpretations -- not a bad combination. I eagerly await Relics of the Dead, the next of Adelia's adventures. Can a PBS miniseries be far behind?
Profile Image for Lauren.
2,240 reviews162 followers
May 2, 2013
Grave Goods
3.5 Stars

The historical background is fascinating despite one or two glaring inconsistencies (that are ultimately explained in the author's note), but the investigation into the corpses believed to be those of Arthur and Guinevere is not as engrossing as in the previous books.

There are a number of mysteries interspersed throughout the book: Who are the unidentified corpses in the Glastonbury graveyard? Who set fire to the abbey? What happened to Adelia's friend Emma and her child? Everything is ultimately resolved but it is all very anti-climactic.

There is also very little character development in this one. Adelia and Rowley come to terms with their on again, off again romance but other than that the characters are extremely one dimensional, although Henry II does have his moments.

All in all, not a bad mystery and the book is worth reading for the history and for the insight into Arthurian legend.
Profile Image for Cherie.
1,278 reviews113 followers
May 11, 2020
I liked this story better than the second one. The enchantment of the King Arthur legend that was wound up around the Glastonbury Abbey and town fire was nostalgic. I liked how the author continues to weave in the new laws that Henry Plantagenet (King Henry II) was bringing to England during his reign.
Profile Image for Lorraine.
1,015 reviews80 followers
July 29, 2017
This is a great book which is part of an even greater series. Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin concerns graves found at Glastonbury Abbey which the monks of the Abbey stated were the graves of King Arthur and his wife, Guinevere. Glastonbury Abbey was at one time the richest abbey in England. Besides the setting of Glastonbury Abbey, what intrigued me was the name of the series. The series main character is a woman who has studied medicine and became a doctor when women were not allowed to be a doctor- at least not in England, but she did not train in England. This character drew me to this excellent series, and I recommend this book and the Misress of the Art of Death series very highly.
Profile Image for Jamie Collins.
1,421 reviews262 followers
December 28, 2011
An enjoyable medieval mystery, the third in this series. The setting is great, and I like Franklin's writing very much.

The king's appearances were fun, as always, although the bit at the end where Adelia was a little over the top. We are already quite aware that the author thinks Henry II was a really good king. She left Eleanor alone this time, thank goodness, with only one dig about the queen's jealousy.

I like all of these characters, and I'm enjoying the Adelia/Rowley relationship. I'm sorry that there is only one more book to go.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
840 reviews
August 15, 2015
Gruesome title, but I enjoy entering the life of Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, Henry II’s reluctant "mistress of the art of death”, who reads bones to determine how their owner came to grief. This is the third in the series and I’d felt something was missing in the second that had been there in the first, but this one was a good read again. Actually I listened to this one, narrated by Diana Bishop, and her accent was pleasant to listen to - and perhaps that added an extra element to my “reading”!
Profile Image for Janice.
1,386 reviews39 followers
April 8, 2020
This is another great addition to this historical mystery series, set in the middle ages. In this one, Adelia Aguilar is sent to Glastonbury by King Henry II to examine the skeletons of two people, recently uncovered in the remnants of an ancient abbey. Adelia is trained as a physician, but is also an expert in forensic study and identification of human remains. As a woman, Adelia must hide both her knowledge and skills from most, but the King has utilized her in several situations in the past. It is his hope that Adelia will be able to confirm that the bones found are indeed the skeletons of King Arthur and Guinevere.
This author does a great job of creating the historical setting; the descriptions of the people, and the landscape of that area feel authentic for that era. She also instills a sense of mystery and hidden secrets in several story lines, and incorporates some of the political and religious turmoils of that time.
Profile Image for Jan.
1,044 reviews29 followers
February 25, 2019
Love this mystery series, which began with one of my favorite book titles, Mistress of the Art of Death. Intriguing characters plus excellent historical background and setting in the England of Henry II.
Profile Image for Denisa Arsene.
345 reviews59 followers
October 24, 2020
Another great experience for the Mistressofthe Art of Death which takes the reader in exciting travels.
Profile Image for Pragya .
548 reviews148 followers
February 21, 2023

I'm committed to finishing this series this year. It's a good thing that Franklin is a master at her plots and writing, and there is never a dull moment.

Not to mention how much I love strong, feisty female characters who don't let love decide the course of their lives but stand up for themselves and have an identity outside of being a lover/wife and a mother.

Once again. Adelia is put through risk and life-threatening situations but her commitment to her work shines through. Her intelligence and wit are incomparable. She has a knack to make friends out of enemies and win most people over.

So when she ventures on this journey to find out the truth behind the discovered bodies, we know she would not return empty-handed.

The mystery and thrill element keeps you on tenterhooks and the reveal is nothing I would have imagined!

A riveting tale of mystery, a little bit of romance, lots of drama and action, exactly what I want in a thriller of historical fiction. Time to pick up the next in the series.
Profile Image for J. Else.
Author 7 books88 followers
April 28, 2016
This is actually the third book in a series, but I could not tell. While there are references to the main character’s past, this is no more than any stand-alone novel would elude to, which to my mind this book truly could be. The main protagonist, Adelia, is a type of medieval forensic pathologist trained at a school in Salerno (which was actually the world’s first medical school). Her character is strong but vulnerable and even throws up a heartfelt prayer here and there. She does not discount religion despite a few bad experiences. She has regrets, she learns to cope with new situations, she lets herself love, and fights tooth and nail for what she believes in.

Much of the action is unexpected and gripping. There were multiple parts to the plot that, happily, I did not pick up from the back cover description. I love surprises like this, and the plots just kept twisting and turning. I did guess the Arturus plot thread right away, but the rest of the revelations were surprises.

The dialogue and settings were so strong that I really felt history come alive as I read. While at times it was hard to decipher what the less-educated characters were saying, it felt so authentic and fit right in with what I was reading (even though the author did modernize the language for us modern readers), so it really did not distract me from the overall plot development. There is so much detail to the characters as well as the social setting. From the classes (from tithings to lords and ladies), rituals about life and death, living qualities, court proceedings and laws, weaponry, medicines, etc., all this was amazingly ripe with historical fact. I loved how immersed I was in 12th century England time and place as well as the action. The only thing that threw me out of the setting was the use of the word “forensics.” It just feels too modern a term, but I cannot say when the word itself started being used. As the rest of the story was so richly authentic, I will trust Franklin’s call in including it.

Franklin adds a little bit of everything: Suspense, romance, historical facts, and humor! Franklin knows how to stir up the pot on previous historical confines yet create something sensational. Some authors tend to dehumanize historical characters by making them about as warm as a tomb wall painting. Franklin knows how to take a character and look beyond the exterior wall. She understands that throughout history, people have always joked, laughed, and cursed at their circumstances.

Many books of this time period are very hard on the church of the time. While this book does show some less than desirable qualities to the medieval times church goings, most of the characters are caring, forgiving, and understanding that people make mistakes and that God is not as harsh as some rulers would make you believe. I appreciated that the author did not grate heavily against the religious practices and beliefs. The church does have its black spots, but this book offered something fresh by highlighting more redeeming characters.

I was very impressed with this book. I will be looking for other books of this series to dive into. Such historical depth and quality of character make this a very satisfying read.
Profile Image for Alondra Miller.
966 reviews55 followers
July 20, 2015
4 Stars

Book Blurb
England, 1176. Beautiful, tranquil Glastonbury Abbey—one of England's holiest sites, and believed by some to be King Arthur's sacred Isle of Avalon—has been burned almost to the ground. The arsonist remains at large, but the fire has uncovered something even more shocking: two hidden skeletons, a man and a woman. The skeletons' height and age send rumors flying- are the remains those of Arthur and Guinevere?

King Henry II hopes so. Struggling to put down a rebellion in Wales, where the legend of Celtic savior Arthur is particularly strong, Henry wants definitive proof that the bones are Arthur's. If the rebels are sure that the Once and Future King will not be coming to their aid, Henry can stamp out the insurgence for good. He calls on Adelia Aguilar, Mistress of the Art of Death, to examine the bones.

What is up

There is a lot going on in this 3rd story of Adelia and her crew.

We have Adelia dealing with those mysterious bones, to the mystery of her friend, Emma’s disappearance; and how in the heck Glastonbury Abbey is burned to the ground. This novel is filled with scheming villains, prejudice, unwarranted hatred, distorted loyalties, buried secrets and only a tadbit of feisty Glytha (I like her!). We also get moments of light from little Allie.

I really love this series, and am again so saddened that the author passed. I have read that a 5th book is coming out. I pray it captures the heart of this wonderful series.
Profile Image for Flora Smith.
523 reviews45 followers
November 29, 2011
This is the third book in the Mistress of the Art of Death series. I was generous rounding this up to 4 stars I would actually give it a 3.5 but because I loved the ending I rounded up. This book is much like the other two. Adelia is given an almost impossible task for the time period in speaking with the dead thru forensics. And this time she is dealing with what is believed to be the bones of King Arthur and Guinevere. There are definite mysteries within mysteries and I was certainly kept interested. And there was a few things that were left unsaid but I did love the ending but I won't spoil it. If you have enjoyed the other MotAoD series you will like this one too.
Profile Image for erin.
22 reviews
December 30, 2011
Just watch half a season of any forensics-heavy procedural with a sassy female scientist lead dealing with heaps of modern problems while maintaining her professional integrity. Then set it in 12th century England. Done.

The plot was intriguing enough to drag me across the finish line, but the line could have been 50 pages earlier. The *dun dun DUN* in the final line was a tad heavy-handed.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Leslie.
2,608 reviews203 followers
August 19, 2018
I liked the basic premise of this 3rd book in the Mistress of the Art of Death series but at times, Adelia's behaviour struck me as improbable. It has been a while since I read the first 2 books in this series so I don't remember if this was how she behaved earlier...

Kate Reading did a good narration.
Profile Image for SoulSurvivor.
783 reviews
December 5, 2015
I sometimes like to read books that are debut volumes or by an author who is dead ? You can continue to stay current with the former , and finish all the books by the latter . Sadly Ariana Franklin belongs to the latter group ; but I'll probably read all her fiction volumes .
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