Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Mistress Of The Art Of Death by Ariana Franklin

In medieval Cambridge, children are being kidnapped and killed in horrific ways.  So far four children have met this fate and the town is up in arms.  Their first and only suspects are the town's Jewish members who have been taken into the local castle where they are living under the sheriff's protection.  Henry II is not pleased with this state of affairs.  Not only does he believe in the law, he also is not happy with how the Jews are being treated as he collects a large amount of taxes from them.  He decides something must be done and writes his cousin who is the King of Sicily, where medicine is known to be at its strongest.

He asks for a master of death, someone who can look at a dead body, perform an autopsy and determine how someone has died.  The person selected is the brightest student at the medical college but her name is Adelia and she is a mistress rather than master of death.  That opens her to charges of witchcraft as women are not supposed to have anything to do with medicine except perhaps childbirth.  Can she function in England with its superstitions as she does in enlightened Sicily? 

Adelia arrives in Cambridge along with her Arabic manservant and a Jewish crime investigator, Simon.  As they travel, they make friends with the local prior who Adelia saves from a deadly disease but the local nuns are not friends as their head is using the bones of the first murdered child as their newest money-making scheme and the murders only increase their notoriety.  There are various returning Crusaders in the town and it becomes clear early in the investigation that being on a Crusade is one of the killer's characteristics.  One of the King's tax inspectors, Sir Rowley Picot, is in town also and it is unclear if he is on their side or if he is a suspect.  As the investigation continues, so do the crimes.  As the murders get closer and closer to Adelia and her group, can they discover the person committing the murders before they are killed themselves?

Ariana Franklin has written an entertaining historical mystery that will keep readers turning pages until the climatic end.  She gives an interesting perspective into the rise of forensic knowledge and how it helps in solving crimes.  Adelia is an interesting character who defies the expectations of her time to be able to work on the things that are important to her.  This is the first novel in a series and readers will be anxious to read more of Adelia's adventures going forth.  This book is recommended for readers of historical mysteries.

No comments: