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Group Read Discussions > August 2009: Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

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message 1: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
Started this book tonight and I am having a hard time putting it down. How did I not hear of this book before?

message 2: by Starling (new)

Starling I read this several months ago, and just finished the third book in the series. I'm curious what others will think of it. Obviously, since I've read other books in the series, I loved it.

message 3: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  (readr4ever) | 236 comments I read this book last year and loved it. I hope everyone else enjoys it as much. The character of Adelia Aguilar is wonderful. I've read the next two, The Serpent's Tale and Grave Goods, and enjoyed those, too. I'm surprised, but delighted, that a fourth one, Relics of the Dead, is coming out the 13th of this month, as the 3rd one just came out this past spring.

message 4: by Dorie (new)

Dorie (dorieann) | 464 comments Kathy, I hate to tell you this, but Relics of the Dead is the UK name for Grave Goods, the third in the series. So it's not a new book. I know, I was disappointed too. Guess we'll just have to wait a little longer.

JG (Introverted Reader) I loved it too!

message 6: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
Half way through and really enjoying this book. It is a much more complex story than I expected and the background historical information is worked in nicely and really moves the story along not just as side information.

message 7: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  (readr4ever) | 236 comments Dorie wrote: "Kathy, I hate to tell you this, but Relics of the Dead is the UK name for Grave Goods, the third in the series. So it's not a new book. I know, I was disappointed too. Guess we'll just have to w..."

Well, I thought it probably was, too, but I could have sworn I saw it say somewhere that it was the fourth title in the series. It makes sense that it is the same as Grave Goods with its title being Relics of the Dead, but whatever I saw got me confused. Thanks, Dorie, for unmuddling my mind on this one.

message 8: by Starling (new)

Starling Kathy, I think Amazon got confused too. There was a fourth book in my Coming Soon recommendations but it is gone now.

message 9: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  (readr4ever) | 236 comments Starling wrote: "Kathy, I think Amazon got confused too. There was a fourth book in my Coming Soon recommendations but it is gone now."

That must be where I saw it. Thanks, Starling.

message 10: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  (readr4ever) | 236 comments Heather wrote: "I'm almost to the halfway mark and I'm really, really enjoying it! I love Adelia! What a great character. She has such a dry sense of humor and just calls things as she sees them. I've been pleasan..."

Heather, I enjoy Adelia's sense of humor, too, and I love the banter between Adelia and Rowley.

message 11: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
Spoiler Alert

I just finished Mistress of the Art of Death and I found it an absorbing complex mystery, a real page turner. I suspected early on that one of the knights was the murderer but I never suspected the involvement of Sister Veronica.

I enjoyed Adelia’s tell it like it is attitude, Gyltha’s common sense, and Sir Rowley’s confusion in trying to come to terms with Adelia and his feelings for her.

The diverse characters and the historical details woven throughout the story were also very interesting. England was in the middle of a power struggle between Church and State and reason and superstition, a very dangerous time for all involved.

message 12: by Starling (new)

Starling Donna, you are going to LOVE the next two books in the series. I did.

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm about 3/4ths of the way through the book, and am enjoying it. Adelia's character is presented well, although she is a little too modern for the times.

message 14: by Starling (new)

Starling I found Adelia's character a bit modern too, and that is a common complaint for this writer - even her older books under a different pen name. But in this case I can hold on to belief because she comes from a different culture where her training is just barely possible. And she came out of a professional situation where she was being protected from the real world.

message 15: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
While I was reading this book I kept thinking of the Brother Cadfael books by Ellis Peters. They are set a few decades earlier but with some similarities in that Brother Cadfael solves murders with scientific knowledge he gained during his time in the Crusades. Has anyone else read any of this series? Which do you like better?

message 16: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 12, 2009 03:01AM) (new)

I finished it last night. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. I thought Franklin was unnecessarily zealous in her constant repeating of how the children were killed. Enough! I heard you! The same goes for the two animal killings. In fact, that, and the excerpt at the end from the next one that details another animal torture are the reasons I won't be reading more of her books.
As I mentioned above, the characters were a little too modern and/or bizarre for my taste. That Rowley was able to chase the killer across Europe is of course possible, but I just didn't find it realistic enough.

There was much in the second half of the book to keep me interested and reading. Adelia's burgeoning feelings for Rowley, her struggle with herself over those feelings, and her love for the child Ulf were well done.

The events just didn't gel for me, although I got a kick out of her portrayal of Henry II.

Donna, I have some of Brother Cadfael books in my TBR stack, someday I'll get to them to compare. I'm intrigued now.

message 17: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
Hi Pontalba, Yes I agree with you about the rather gory details. Unfortunately I think some writers think they have to do that to be popular. I usually just skim those paragraphs.

message 18: by Bill (new)

Bill | 11 comments I read this book awhile ago and while I noticed that I gave it four stars at the time, I must admit that was because I admired it more than I liked it. I think Ariana Franklin writes well and does seem to capture the historical era well (the main characters aside), but ultimately the book didn't grab me and I have not rushed out to read the second or third book of the series. The tendancy of these newer mystery thriller series to add romance bothers me - the agonizing over the relationships takes away from the mystery elements for me. Hercule Poiret, Miss Marple, Same Spade, or Philip Marlowe never agonized over their love lives (although I guess Marlowe did in his last book). Perhaps it's a marketing thing or the theory that people read series more for the characters than the mystery. Anyway, I was afraid the later books would delve more into the romance so I stayed away from them.

message 19: by Starling (new)

Starling Bill, spoilers ahead....

They do and they don't delve into "romance". The "romantic" attachment is a plot thread in both books, but it isn't what the book is all about. It takes both books to resolve their issues, but I don't think there is a whole lot of agonizing going on.

message 20: by Bill (new)

Bill | 11 comments Thanks Starling. I'll add the new books to my TBR list but will admit the won't be at the top of the list.

message 21: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  (readr4ever) | 236 comments I was a bit surprised at the complaints about Adelia being too modern. She has been trained by someone whose thinking is more advanced about the capabilities of women and finds herself in a place where the attitudes towards women are far from advanced. She is one of those women who is ahead of her times. I love books about such women, strong women who have a mind of their own when it isn't fashionable or permissable to do so.

message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Kathy wrote: "I was a bit surprised at the complaints about Adelia being too modern. She has been trained by someone whose thinking is more advanced about the capabilities of women and finds herself in a place ..."

I agree, there were probably many exceptions to the "rules" of the time. However, Franklin did not make me believe Adelia was one of those people. Her attitude was too modern, in that as though she was a modern woman transported to the past acting out, instead of a woman born in that time that through extreme luck, and even more talent had overcome.

In spite of the descriptions of the conditions of the time, I did not feel it. Maybe it's a case of being told, and not shown.

message 23: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  (readr4ever) | 236 comments Well, Pontalba, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree. Of course, that's what makes reading and discussing it so interesting, all the different opinions.

message 24: by Bill (new)

Bill | 11 comments Heather,

I think you expressed very succintly what I tried to say earlier. I agree that the ending did not live up to the promise of the beginning.

message 25: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 13, 2009 01:44PM) (new)

Agreed Kathy, if we all thought the same, and liked the same things and aspects of a book, it'd be a pretty boring world! :)

Heather and Bill,
I see what you mean about her turn about, but really, I enjoyed the latter half more than the first.
As for her falling for Rowley, I found it totally believable, she had been sheltered in every way, and here comes this huge bit of masculinity....hormones took over. And he was a worthy man as well, that is something her character would have required in the final analysis.

message 26: by [deleted user] (new)


I even believed it when she decided she would not marry him, ever. I heard the click, and fully understood where she was coming from.

message 27: by Heidi (new)

Heidi  | 98 comments Heather... I think books 2 and 3 are better because Adelia and Rowley's relationship is less the focal point than in the first book (although he plays a role in each story)... just finished Grave Goods and although I guessed one of the threads... I think it's my favorite of the three (medieval England and Arthurian legends... my favorite blend... not sure why since I wouldn't last 12 mins in 1176 AD).

message 28: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
Heather you have hit the nail on the head. I have been reading the back and forth opinions on Adelia and I could not put my finger on what was wrong. Corny is a good word.

Allison (The Allure of Books) (inconceivably) I agree with you H...I thought the whole thing was kinda awkward. I wasn't feeling it very much from her POV.

message 30: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
Well I do think the whole romance with Rowley made sense. She thought she had firmly made up her mind as to the path her life would take and then - wham - it was turned upside down. She found she did not have the complete control over her emotions she thought she did. If those scenes had been written better they might not have been as jarring and blended in better with her overall character.

message 31: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
So true!

message 32: by Joyce (new)

Joyce | 21 comments I've read all three of the Adelia books and enjoy the series very much. I think it's the strong female character and I've realized many of the myteries I read, particularly the historicals, have featured an independent woman: Peter Treymayne's Sister Fidelma, Margaret Frazer's Sister Frevisse... The other interesting twist in Adelia's life is she is trapped in England with not much hope of returning to Sicily and trying to make the best of it.

message 33: by Starling (new)

Starling Joyce, trying yes, but not too happy about the whole thing through most of all three books.

message 34: by Kevin (new)

Kevin (manchesterunited) Loved this book! I really enjoyed the tie-in to the Beckett/Henry 2nd saga. I am savoring "not" having read the most recent in the series. I smile every time I see it on my shelf. :)

message 35: by Luann (new)

Luann (azbookgal) | 47 comments I know this is late, but I just wanted to say thanks to the group for nominating this! I probably never would have read it otherwise.

I thought it was sad that most of the victims were children, but I absolutely loved the characters - especially Adelia. There were parts that felt a bit modern - I even found one "darn" that felt really out of place - but I also really enjoyed the medieval setting. I definitely want to read another in the series sometime.

message 36: by Morgiana (new)

Morgiana Well, I know this is really late, but I picked up this book and really enjoyed to read it.
While I was really enjoying her writing style and the storyline I am really suspicious was it really allowed in the century to have such profession?
But I really enjoyed their investigation and was shocked when it turned out who was the evil at the end.

message 37: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
Hi Morgiana. There is always room for debate in history but it is generally believed that medicine/forensic science was much more advanced in Sicily, where Adelia got her education but it was probably still a bit unusual, but not impossible, for a woman to be so educated.

message 38: by Karendenice (new)

Karendenice I just got this book from the library a few days ago. I'm going to try to start it right away!

message 39: by Jacky (new)

Jacky (jackyann) | 12 comments Hello, I thought I posted this before, but am still finding my way around this board!
the 3rd & 4th in the series both had different titles in the US & UK. Relics of the Dead is the same as Grave Goods; The Assassins Prayer is the same as A Murderous Procession.
Sadly Arianna Franklin ( real name Diana Norman) died last year.

message 40: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  (readr4ever) | 236 comments Jacky wrote: "Hello, I thought I posted this before, but am still finding my way around this board!
the 3rd & 4th in the series both had different titles in the US & UK. Relics of the Dead is the same as Grave G..."

Jacky, I had heard of Norman's death earlier and was so saddened. The Adelia Aguilar series was one of my favorites. Norman was such a great writer.

message 41: by Karendenice (new)

Karendenice Did she finish the series before she died? that's so sad when a great author dies. Or actually when anyone dies.

message 42: by Esther (new)

Esther (eshchory) | 209 comments I felt so-so about this book.
Within a couple of pages I realised it wasn't the book I had expected it to be but I still had high hopes.
However the gratuitous goreiness of the child murders was off-putting and there was too much time spent telling me how Adelia felt rather than showing me so I never connected with her character.
I uncovered the mystery quite early on and thought the plotting of the story was good but not great.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 552 comments I found it... OK. I gave it three stars.

Unfortunately it was "oversold" to me, so I had high hopes for it.

message 44: by Jacky (new)

Jacky (jackyann) | 12 comments I don't know if she felt it was finished. I can't say too much without a spoiler, but the 4th books did end with a sense that there might be more to come.
She was in her 70s.
I did "feel" that Adelia was real - very real - I knew a little of the medical history of Salerno. Italy (wasn't Italy then of course)being the first "European" country that people from the East often encountered as they travelled west, meant that it picked up Arabian medical knowledge before other parts of Europe. It all felt right to me.
But I do think that connecting with a character is a very individual thing, and feeling that a historical period is portrayed accurately can depend on how much you know about it.
What I can say with some certainty is that the Fen way of speaking was very well done. When I was a child, 50 years ago, that was how old people in the Fens talked. Obviously we can only make a few educated guesses ( the Geste of Hereward) to know how they really spoke in medieval times, but to make it both comprehensible to modern ears & add authentic flavour, it was IMO a wise choice.

message 45: by Kayla (new)

Kayla (bookworm17) I'm jumping in late in the read...

I actually read this novel a while back and I agree with everyone here about the romance in the novel kindof taking away from the overall mystery towards the end. I didn't appreciate how Adelia's voice started to falter a bit and almost fall out of character for her. I understand that some people may react this way when they get excited about someone, but I just didn't feel like it was entirely natural for how her character had been portrayed throughout the novel. However, I guess I can agree with those who are also saying that the relationship offered a new side, and maybe even a necessary side, to Adelia there at the end. I have not gone out and read the books following this one, but I would be very interested since the overall historical aspects of the novel did feel pretty authentic for something so incredibly far removed from our own culture. I really appreciated the author exploring someone with an attitude and ambition outside the norm for her time and gender as well. I'm sure there were anomalies in every period in history-take Anne Hutchinson or perhaps Cleopatra for example- and I thought Adelia was really well-written for the most part. Only occasionally did the author write lines that felt out of place for her.

message 46: by Hayes, Co-Moderator (new)

Hayes (hayes13) | 2060 comments Mod
Just starting this now. Will read through the comments later.

message 47: by Hayes, Co-Moderator (last edited Jan 27, 2012 11:47PM) (new)

Hayes (hayes13) | 2060 comments Mod
Glad I waited to read the comments as there were a few spoilers.

I gave this three stars too, and enjoyed the mystery, but felt that the mystery and the history were written for two different books and then merged into one. The autopsy at the beginning made me think of Quincy; it ruined the atmosphere, and felt highly improbable.

I liked the second half of the book more, especially learning about the condition of the Jews in Medieval England, and liked the character and history of Henry II.

Could not deal with the blood and gore; really pushing the limits of my comfort level there. And the scene at the end in the chalk mine was definitely over the top. And I absolutely do not believe that Adelia would have had the presence of mind or the psychological knowledge to handle the situation as she did.

And then there was the love scene, which felt tacked on for the purpose of the sequels. I agree with previous posters, corny and out of character.

But I did enjoy it, just not as much as I was hoping to. I agree with Susanna: oversold. I won't go looking for the next in the series, but if I happen upon it at Bookmooch I'll give it a try (although someone mentioned taht there is more animal torture in the next one too... ick!)

Maggie the Muskoka Library Mouse (mcurry1990) I had to read this book for school, and it was quite good. I liked the medieval mystery, and the characters were nicely depicted.

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