Grave Goods (Mistress of the Art of Death Series #3)

Grave Goods (Mistress of the Art of Death Series #3)

4.1 81
by Ariana Franklin

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The "richly detailed, almost indecently thrilling" (New York Times) follow up to The Serpent's Tale

When a fire at Glastonbury Abbey reveals two skeletons, rumor has it they may belong to King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. King Henry II hopes so, for it would help him put down a rebellion in Wales, where the legend of Celtic savior Arthur…  See more details below


The "richly detailed, almost indecently thrilling" (New York Times) follow up to The Serpent's Tale

When a fire at Glastonbury Abbey reveals two skeletons, rumor has it they may belong to King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. King Henry II hopes so, for it would help him put down a rebellion in Wales, where the legend of Celtic savior Arthur is strong. To make certain, he sends Adelia Aguilar, his Mistress of the Art of Death, to Glastonbury to examine the skeletons.

At the same time, the investigation into the abbey fire will be overseen by the Bishop of St. Albans, father of Adelia's daughter. Trouble is, someone at Glastonbury doesn't want either mystery solved, and is prepared to kill to prevent it...

Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
Science and romance vie with superstition and barbarism in this richly detailed, almost indecently thrilling mystery.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Set in 1176, Franklin's excellent third Mistress of the Art of Death novel (after The Serpent's Tale) finds Adelia Aguilar, a "qualified doctor from the School of Medicine in Salerno," in the holy town of Glastonbury, where Henry II has sent her to inspect two sets of bones rumored to be those of Arthur and Guinevere. Henry is hoping that an unequivocally dead Arthur will discourage the rebellious Welsh. The bones have been uncovered by the few monks, under the saintly Abbot Sigward, who remain after a terrible and mysterious fire devastated the town and abbey. Adelia's party includes her loyal Arabian attendant, Mansur, whose willingness to play the role of doctor allows Adelia to be his "translator" and practice the profession she loves; and Gyltha, Mansur's lover and the caretaker of Adelia's small daughter, Allie. Eloquently sketched characters, including a ragtag group of Glastonbury men down on their luck, and bits of medieval lore flavor the constantly unfolding plot. (Mar.)

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Library Journal

In 12th-century England, a fire at Glastonbury Abbey-one of England's holiest sites-uncovers an ancient box containing the skeletons of a man and a woman. King Henry II calls on his "mistress of the Art of Death," Adelia Aguilar, to identify the bones. The devastated community of Glastonbury, as well as King Henry, would like them to be Arthur and Guinevere. Adelia enlists her regular cadre of companions (Mansur, Gyltha, and daughter Allie) to help her investigate. Franklin's third entry in her medieval historical series (after Mistress of the Art of Death and The Serpent's Tale) re-creates a living, breathing past populated with entertaining characters. This medieval Arthurian mystery is fascinating on many levels and very readable. Franklin, a pseudonym for British author Diana Norman, is a perfect combination of Kathy Reichs and Sharon Kay Penman. The ending leaves an opening for yet another adventure for this cast of characters. Highly recommended for all mystery collections.
—Susan Hayes

Kirkus Reviews
The third volume in a successful British historical criminal-investigation series sees its heroine attempting to authenticate the bones of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Glastonbury, ancient abbey and possible site of Avalon, where, myth suggests, the once and future king Arthur rests, awaiting his return, is the setting for Franklin's latest (The Serpent's Tale, 2008, etc.) smartly paced and neatly delivered 12th-century Adelia mystery featuring an Italian-born doctor unique in her forensic and healing abilities. Having assisted King Henry II before, she is now commissioned by him again to examine the two bodies, one male, one female, found in a coffin in a Glastonbury graveyard and to establish as far as possible that these are Arthur's remains, in order to suppress Welsh hopes that the ancient king will come again to lead their rebellions. An occasionally ragged web of subplots involving the disappearance of Adelia's friend Lady Wolvercote, the identity of the man who burned down Glastonbury Abbey, a savage robber named Wolf, the mad innkeeper's wife and a son murdered by his own father tends to dominate the pages and tip the book's balance to include more action and less detection. Adelia, a rationalist and modernist with opinions on pacifism and contraception, also sets aside some of her logic when her ex-lover, the Bishop of St. Albans, reappears and wins her heart once more. A long denouement ties up most loose ends while leaving the door open for volume four. A well-researched, colorful, sometimes comical and often engaging mystery, although the series is beginning to show more signs of familiarity than freshness. Agent: Helen Heller/Helen Heller Agency

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Mistress of the Art of Death Series , #3
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Penguin Group
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File size:
346 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

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Grave Goods (Mistress of the Art of Death Series #3) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 80 reviews.
Syrahound More than 1 year ago
For being the third book that encompasses the same main characters, in the same time period, the mid 1100''s in England, it is truly quite good and you will surely enjoy yourself. If you enjoy a book that is a little bit historical with lots of murder, combining a smidgen of funny dialouge with lots of action, i.e. MURDER, (even if you don't too) you will enjoy this book (as well as the previous two books from Arianna Franklin.) The plot of all the books in this series surround a woman in a man's world who doesn't take being bossed around very well. Her downfall and our (the reader's) benefit is she can't say no to a murder. Especially one that looks odd. Even though the King of England makes her do his work ('cause he's trying to consolatade and move forward the people/ country after his being blamed for a famous religious figure that had been killed, he needs someone to solve all the "problems" (murders) that are too difficult for most and he also wants secrecy most of the time. Adelia is a women from Italy formally traned in medicine but best in medical examining work (as she has cut up cadavers in Italy as one of the best students in the training schools of Italy. The doctors and schools there are in the forefront of medicine), but she is constrained and cannot do anything out in public, all of her work must be done in secrecy because of the role women play in those times so she hides her ablilties and uses another, someone who raveled to Italy with her, a Muslum (otherwise she could be branded a witch). With her best friend and confidante from Italy, a Muslum, whom she has known for years as well as a new friend who she met in England several years and books ago (she's a lower class women she met in book 1 who helps her as well. This women helps to take care of her baby she bore after an encounter with a man who became an archbishop, he is also her lover and one she would marry, but because of many reasons does not. She is ordered, by the King, to go to a town and find out if a grave that has been uncovered is really that of the legendary man, King Arthur, she has to solve a mystery but not get killed in the process. Many want it to be King Arthur, but not everyone. There is another secret that lies in the grave that the supposed Arthur lies in. She does a great job of getting the answer and almost in getting killed several times while doing so, and in true Adelia style she reports back to the King of England with her findings and with magnificent flare for the dramatic. But.... there are many twist and turns to this story and it is truly a great read. One that most will love even if you are not a historical lover or a murder mystery lover, it is just extremely well written and told. Ariana Franklin does not bog down the story with lots of facts about Enlish history, nor is it too gory or too complicated... just enough to help ...."tell the tale" Definitely one of my favorites of the year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ariana Franklin brings her characters to life once again in a continuing saga of life and death in the 1100's. I enjoy historial fiction and she does a great job of detailing life in the times of church domination and controlling kings. Being in the medical field peaks my sense of medical intrique, along with the investigating that goes into the murders. Of course, the romance is a great twist, too. This book ended with a surprise and I'm now headed back to Barnes and Nobles to pick up book four. Anyone who enjoyed the first two novels will love this third as it takes you deeper into the lives of the characters that have been entwined since book one.
BibliophileJM More than 1 year ago
Franklin makes the 12th century come alive and her Author's Notes are almost as exciting as the story itself. Adelia is a warm, loving and concerned person, but she is also a microscope through which we can view this moment in history, capturing vivid impressions of every layer of society. We see every faction of life from King to the worst riff-raff with clarity and understanding. This is a wonderful follow-up to "The Serpent's Tale" and I look forward to her next book.
friartuck More than 1 year ago
We continue the story of the King's Death Detective and once again are not disappointed. The story is as intrically woven as her past stories with the characters (as in real life) touching multiple parts of the story. I can't wait for the next installment to this wonderful on going story.
wifeyMA More than 1 year ago
As usual, Ariana Franklin delivers the goods - in this case Grave Goods, the latest in her always compelling Mistress of the Art of Death series. This installment reunites everyone's favorite characters and introduces not just one, but two, of her bad guys with their usual loathesome character traits and downright terrifying descriptions. I never tire of Franklin's style and feel as if her characters have become old friends. My personal favorite has to be King Henry, especially when he butts heads with Adelia. I laughed out loud when he first pops up in Grave Goods. My only wish is that Franklin's novels were longer. I devoured this in two days and am impatiently waiting for the next - thanks for another fabulous trip back in time, Ms. Franklin. When can we do it again??
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
Adelia Aguilar, Mistress of the Art of Death, has been summoned by King Henry II to perform what seems an impossible task. A dying monk at Glastonbury Abbey has seen a vision during a horrendous earthquake and fire, a sight which he believes is the burial of King Arthur and his Queen Guinevere. A drunken, womanizing ex-monk and bard holds the secret for many years before he saves his life by revealing it to King Henry. For this King such a vision spells disaster as his Welsh enemy believe that King Arthur is not dead but awaiting the perfect time to return and heal England and Wales. Indeed, as Adelia is to discover, vestiges of the Dark Ages loom large at Glastonbury and its neighbor and competitor Wells. Her examination of the burial remains will determine the future of the abbey, its occupants, the town to be rebuilt to support the abbey, the welfare of an inn and most of all the dreams of a nation! Adelia was traveling in that direction anyway with her good friend, Emma, whose bastard son is the legitimate heir of the Wolvercote estate. Both women have something in common, giving birth to a child whose father refuses to acknowledge his paternity because of the call of church and state respectively. It's a hard world for such women and children, in a feudal age when class distinctions rule the day and only the word of a King can change the fortunes and future of all concerned. Adelia, torn by the disappearance of Emma who proceeded her into the area, arrives and begins to find numerous bodies, secrets galore about residents who have committed unspeakable crimes for supposedly innocent and well-intentioned reasons. The pages fly for the reader as Adelia and her Arab helper, Mansur, find inexplicable evidence of more than just the Arthurian legend and become the target of numerous criminals who seek to murder Adelia. But criminals in this world know the high price of faithfulness, and Adelia's sense of honor, truth and justice help her transcend the most fearful and life-threatening debacles within homes, the gloomy forest and a leper's island. Grave Goods is a well-written, thrilling read that is well-researched and tautly plotted with fascinating characters and events! Kudos to Ms. Franklin on this splendid read! Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on March 28, 2009
LynnHarnett More than 1 year ago
The legend of King Arthur underpins Adelia Aguilar's third case for England's Henry II. It's 1176. An exasperated Henry Plantagenet has just put down another rebellion. In hopes of quelling future unrest he seizes on the story of a dying monk's vision - the burial of King Arthur at Glastonbury Abbey. Henry commands Adelia, the Mistress of the Art of Death, to prove the bones Arthur's so that rebellious Celts everywhere will give up the cherished myth that "a warrior from the Dark Ages is going to lead them to freedom. I want Arthur's bones and I want them on display." But Adelia arrives to find the Abbey burned to the ground. The mythic bones have indeed been recovered, but there are two bodies in the coffin - one of them apparently female. Guinevere? Worse, the smaller skeleton's pelvic area has been removed, deliberately excised. And Adelia's young friend Emma, Lady Wolvercote (from "The Serpent's Tale"), along with her child and bodyguard, have vanished enroute to her nearby mother-in-law's estate. Meanwhile, as if she doesn't have enough to worry about, Rowley Picot, the father of Adelia's 4-year-old daughter, now Bishop of St. Albans, arrives to investigate the fire. Hidden caves, sadistic brigands, desperate serfs and more dead bodies mix in with the lies, intrigue, romance and humor to keep the various plot lines moving at a rapid clip. Franklin, pseudonym of British writer Diana Norman, revels in the medieval atmosphere, immersing the reader in the details of daily life in all its dirt, damp, superstition, and lawlessness. Readers of the previous two volumes will be familiar with the set-up. There is no such thing in 12th century Britain as a female doctor so Adelia, an Italian from Salerno, where women are permitted to study medicine, has developed an elaborate ruse. She poses as a translator for her friend, the Arab castrato Mansur, who poses as a celebrated doctor. His lover, Adelia's companion Gyltha, also travels with her, as does her daughter. Although the first in the series remains unsurpassed ("Mistress of the Art of Death"), and the ending of this one is a bit far-fetched, Adelia's lively intelligence and determination and the vivid evocation of the times keeps this series among the best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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There are very few books that I keep. Ariana Franklin's series of medieval love and murder and history go down for me as classics that I am not lending out or giving way. Rereading is definently in their future and I want them close to my side. Franklin brings to life the harsh realities of lifes lived not so long ago. It is hard for us to contemplate the complete rule that men had at one time over women. Adelia, represents for me, the freedom from the tyranical rule of men and religion that still continues today for so many women. Just yesterday I was told that canning could not be done if a woman was on her cycle ! How rediculous. I, for one will do as I darned well please, avoiding of course deliberate harm to anyone. Oh, how I love that character, her smelly dogs, her for real and honest friends and her bigger than life lover and her ability to think and reason... a quality so lacking in so many, still today . As an aside, I once swore at a man as she did in " Mistress of the Art of Death" and it was so effective that that man has never so much as lifted his eyes to me ever again, whereas before that time he constantly threatened, berated me and swore at me simply because I refused to sell him my adjoining property.
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LadyHester More than 1 year ago
The main character grew on me the more I read the series. Although, I still think she is a freak and could not possibly exist in the 12th century. This one didn't get five stars because it was slightly surreal. I also hate any reference to Arthur and Camelot, one of the most beaten and overdone stories in history.
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