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January 2020: Thriller > Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin / 4 Stars

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message 1: by Kimber (new)

Kimber (kimberwolf) | 836 comments Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
★ ★ ★ ★

When four 12th Century Cambridge children go missing and then are found murdered, the Christian residents of Cambridge accuse the Jewish residents of the crime and resort to violence without ascertaining the facts. King Henry II protects the Jewish residents by sequestering them in a castle fortress, which keeps them safe but completely disrupts any ability to live their normal lives. King Henry requests aid from his cousin, the King of Sicily, in the form of a master of the art of death – a term used for what we would now call a medical examiner or a forensic pathologist.

The King of Sicily sends his best – Adelia, a mistress of the art of death, along with companions Simon and Mansur. Adelia is an outsider in Cambridge, and must meet and overcome many challenges just because of who she is – a female doctor and a non-Christian who is also from a foreign country.

Adelia uses her experience, intelligence, and skills not only to investigate the murders of the children in an effort to discover the true culprit so that the Jewish people of Cambridge can return to their homes and their lives, but also to heal the ill and injured and win over more than a few of those who come into contact with her.

Although it took me a chapter or two to warm up to the story, this is an excellent medieval thriller with a strong plot and a lot of interesting and well-developed characters. The portrayal of Henry II was entertaining. I appreciated the attention paid to the challenges of this time period for anyone not a white, Christian man of a certain class. It was also interesting to read about some of the medical procedures used in the 12th Century.


message 2: by Olivermagnus (new)

 Olivermagnus (lynda214) | 2026 comments I wasn't sure I was going to like this when I started it, but then ended up planning to get the next one.


message 3: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5229 comments I love this review and the information about King Henry II. It goes to show that there have always been people who care about fairness, justice and non-discrimination. This also sounds like a good one for a medical tag. Medical stories from earlier centuries are pretty interesting. I recently read somewhere that blood letting was probably most helpful for high blood pressure, so it probably did lengthen some lives.


message 4: by Kimber (new)

Kimber (kimberwolf) | 836 comments Olivermagnus wrote: "I wasn't sure I was going to like this when I started it, but then ended up planning to get the next one."

I felt the same way, Lynda! It started out a little slow for me, but I ended up really liking it. If you haven't read the second book by the time you are back in Michigan this spring, you are welcome to borrow it (I have the 2nd and 3rd).

NancyJ - thank you! And if you like a medical aspect along with beautiful writing, I recommend Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. It was so good.


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