Mistress of the Art of Death
By Ariana Franklin
Completed October 8, 2011
The first in a series, Mistress of the Art of Death introduces us to Adelia Aguilar – a medieval version of Kate Scarpetta – who travels to England to determine who was killing young children around Canterbury. Adelia hails from Salerno, where women were allowed to study medicine, and she was an expert in examining bodies post-mortem to determine their cause of death.
The residents of Canterbury had blamed its Jewish residents for the children’s deaths, based on circumstantial evidence. When Adelia and her entourage arrive, they begin investigating the murders with the blessings of the Church and King. The children died violently, and as Adelia began to uncover clues, her investigation becomes of interest to the King’s tax collector, Sir Rowley Picot. Together, they begin to compare notes – and a little romantic chemistry starts to bubble up.
I have no idea how historically accurate this book is. Would a person from the 12th century have enough forensic skills to learn anything from skeletons? Would the King of England really authorize a woman to investigate murders? I will leave these questions to experts of this time frame. What I can tell you is that Mistress of the Art of Death was a good, suspenseful novel. It had a slow beginning, but once Adelia began her investigation, the book enjoyed a nice pace. I liked the characters as well.
I wouldn’t classify Mistress of the Art of Death as literary fiction, but more of a historical novel with a murder mystery twist. If this genre appeals to you – or you like books set in medieval England – then give Mistress of the Art of Death a go. ( )