Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death Series #1)

Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death Series #1)

4.1 167
by Ariana Franklin

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The national bestselling hit hailed by the New York Times as a "vibrant medieval mystery...[it] outdoes the competition."

In medieval Cambridge, England, Adelia, a female forensics expert, is summoned by King Henry II to investigate a series of gruesome murders that has wrongly implicated the Jewish population, yielding even more tragic results.…  See more details below


The national bestselling hit hailed by the New York Times as a "vibrant medieval mystery...[it] outdoes the competition."

In medieval Cambridge, England, Adelia, a female forensics expert, is summoned by King Henry II to investigate a series of gruesome murders that has wrongly implicated the Jewish population, yielding even more tragic results. As Adelia's investigation takes her behind the closed doors of the country's churches, the killer prepares to strike again.

Editorial Reviews

Somebody is killing the Christian children of Cambridge. In 12th-century England, Jews are obvious scapegoats for such outrages, but in this case, King Henry II hesitates to prosecute whole groups of potential taxpayers. To quell the uproar, he secretly summons a female coroner to track down the real culprits. As City of Shadows author Arianna Franklin leads us through the brutal realities of feudal life, we follow plot twists as tight as merchant paths in ancient cities. A masterfully crafted historical whodunit.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Mistress of the Art of Death Series , #1
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Penguin Group
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File size:
723 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A fabulous read...irresistible." — New York Daily News "Vivid and engaging...succeeds brilliantly as both historical fiction and crime thriller. [A] terrific book...with a dozen twists." — Diana Gabaldon, Washington Post "One of the most compelling, suspenseful mysteries I've read in years." — New York Times bestselling author Sharon Kay Penman "The medieval answer to Kay Scarpetta and the CSI detectives." — Karen Harper, bestselling author of the Elizabeth I mystery series "Fascinating...a rollicking microcosm of budding science, medieval culture, and edge-of-your-seat suspense." — USA Today "Expert researched, a brilliant heroine." — Kate Mosse, New York Times bestselling author of Labyrinth "CSI meets The Canterbury Tales...commercial paydirt...delivered with panache." — Kirkus Reviews (starred)

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Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death Series #1) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 166 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1171 England, the Jews were given a haven under King Henry¿s rule, not because he liked them but they paid one seventh of the monies in the royal treasury. In the town of Cambridge, four children have disappeared and the body of only one has been found. A rumor begins that Jews killed the child. In retaliation a mob went on a killing spree, bodily tearing apart two Jews while the survivors take sanctuary in Cambridge Castle.----------------- In Sicily the king at the request of Henry II sends three people (Simon a Jew, Mansur a Muslim and the doctor of the dead Adelia Agutar) to England to find the killer. When they arrive the dead bodies of the three children are waiting for their analysis. Adelia knows that all the victims were killed by the same murderer. Adelia who misses her native Salerno finds a place for herself in England and during the course of her investigation she teams up with tax collector Sir Rowley to find the murderer but not before he kills someone dear to her who was closing in on him.------------------- Cross the forensic science of a Kay Scarpetta novel with the historical background of Judith Tarr book and the reader will have some idea of what the MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH is all about. Adelia is a great character, a female pioneer allowed to practice in the one country advanced enough to grant females that privilege. She is a plain speaker who seeks justice for the dead and has no tolerance for prejudice of any kind. She has more freedom than the average female in the Middle Ages and she knows how to use it to do what she wants. Readers will admire her and look forward to the next mystery starring this intrepid heroine.--------------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have to say that this story grabbed me by the arm and dragged me in and would not let me go until the last page. And the author really did use Henry II as an effective character and an important object lesson. Ariana Franklin's delightful humor is present throughout the piece -- even in the story's most dire moment, when Adelia is bound and trapped within breathing range of Death itself. Her characters have complex backgrounds that shed light on their present relations and actions -- the Prior's relationship with the housekeeper he hires for Adelia, and King Henry II has his own personal motivation for summoning these foreign specialists. Interestingly, the backstory comes neatly into play in the end: swoopingly, when King Henry arrives to see to matters himself, and subtly, when Adelia's housekeeper secretly passes on her relationship and the prior to Adelia and her love. In Medieval Europe, a woman educated in the Art of Death in the famous school of medicine in Salerno, is sent to investigate a murder mystery. Accompanied by the renown mediator Simon of Naples and her eunuch manservant, Mansur, Adelia -- the Mistress of the Art of Death -- ventures into Cambridge to find the murderer. By chance, she arrives to find the Prior of the town ill -- unable to piss. Though she knows how to treat his infection, being a woman, she must perform the operation in secret to avoid charges of witchcraft. Thus, despite her formidable knowledge in forensic pathology, to the people of Cambridge, she must pose as an assistant to her manservant, who must pretend to be the doctor in charge. The writing is well done and perfect after a long day.   
Tsudonym More than 1 year ago
Mistress of the Art of Death is a delightful historical novel! Called north from the Mediterranean to solve a delicate series of child murders in the England of Henry II, the unique characters face bias directed at themselves (an educated woman is fine in Renaissance Italy, but in the more barbaric North? and she's traveling with an Italian and a Muslim!) as well as the bias directed at the Jews who were blamed for the murders! The case is interesting, the lead character uses alchemy and botany training to be the "CSI" on the case to 'talk to the dead' and learn their stories to solve the murders. But the true strength of the book lies in historical feel of the period, personal relationships, and the portrayal of the King - the author has truly nailed Henry II! This is the first in a series. I've loved the first two and am getting ready to start the third. Read Mistress of the Art of Death to escape, to visit a legitimate historical time in European history, or to follow the criminal case from beginning to end, but read it!
LadyHester More than 1 year ago
Besides the fact that it is hard to imagine a female doctor who studied corpses in the 1100's......I enjoyed the book. The author has a unique way of writing and often has incomplete sentence structure. I was not expecting the love story near the end since the heroine is fiercely independent and dedicated to her calling. I am interested enough in the characters to pursue book #2.
srbSH More than 1 year ago
The king who supported his Jewish inhabitants because he could always borrow from them, receives a plea from them to investigate the grisly murder of a young Jewish boy in Cambridge, England. Henry sends for experts from the famed medical school in Salerno, Italy. At the head of the team is a Jewish healer and expert on cadavers - and a woman (!) - whose teacher insists that she go in his place to help solve the murder. And so she does, in the company of Gordinus the African and Mordecai fil Berachyah, an intermediary. Adelia must use her wits because both as a Jew and as a woman she is forbidden to touch a man. Indeed, one of her first challenges on arriving in England is to perform an operation on a priest. All the characters - evil and good, women and men - are well drawn and interesting. Glimpses of everyday medieval village, religious, and family life counterbalance the dark events. Horrifying are the continuing murders of children and the awful details of their deaths. Strong evidence suggests that the murderer might be a former Knight Templar. Especially gripping (and romantic) is the growing relationship between Adelia and Sir Rowley Picot, himself a former Knight Templar and thus a suspect. Suspense builds as Adelia rushes to rescue the latest victim at the risk of her own life. Who the madman is, is not revealed until the very end. WHEW!
HistoricalFictionNut More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The author did a wonderful job of intertwining very interesting historical points with a suspenseful, mysterious plot. The characters are very well-written, and the book flows very smoothly. I can't wait to check out her other titles; I hope they're as good as this one!
TWTaz More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book and the author's style of writing. Kept my interest from beginning to end. Adelia is a standout in a cast of memorable characters, and I look forward to more stories featuring them. Just enough mixture of history, mystery and romance and none of the excess detail that some writers pack their books with that can take away from the central story. Can't wait to read about Adelia's next "case."
Guest More than 1 year ago
Historical fiction with a twist. And whether it is realistic or not is not the issue. Other reviewers have said, this would never have happened. But this book is about 'what if it did'. This work shows historical knowledge of the times and brings a 21st century mentality to it. A great read and a page turner! If you like history and fiction-just read and enjoy without over analyzing. You won't be disappointed!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my second go at this book, and I am not quite sure why I put it down after 10 pages the last time. Likely, I was not in the mood for death and mystery. Now I kick myself for taking so long to get to this marvelous tale. It seems I am in the state of reading historical fiction, without even meaning to. And once again, my lack of knowledge on our historical past is driving me bonkers. I finished Mistress of the Art of Death itching to pick up a book on the history of England and the crusades. Adelia, the main character, is amazingly charming, given all her anti-social characteristics, and I found mysels wishing I could sit down to dine with her. Pick her brain, befriend her, share in her isolation, come to understand how her mind ticks. I also wished to dine and befriend many of the other characters, including Mansur, Simon of Naples, the Prior, and really much of the entire cast of characters. The plot, the mystery, was intigruing, if not a little cliche and I wished that there were more explanation of the behavior of the murderer. Yet, I cannot wait to pick up The Serpent's Tale to bring Adelia back into my life. What may have been lacking, or cliche, in the plot was more than made up for by the characters.
curlysueFl More than 1 year ago
The time is 1171 England. The King is Henry II. Problem number one is that four children have been brutally murdered and the Catholic townsfolk are blaming the Cambridge Jews. Problem number two is possible finanicial ruin for Henry's country. The taxes he receives from Jewish merchants helps England prosper and with the Catholic's out for blood Henry must sequester the entire Jewish population within the castle walls for their safety. The solution is Adelia Aguilar. Henry II calls upon his cousin the King of Sicily to send his finest "master of the art of death," the earliest form of a medical examiner to rid his country of this heinous killer. Adelia is a student at the University of Salerno. Highly capable, strongly independent, frustratedly stubborn, and fighting not to show any vulnerability she is thrust into a backward country where she has to hide her identity for fear of being persecuted as a "witch." Accompanying her is her eunoch bodyguard and a Jew from Naples. During their investigation the team meets many possible suspects and a few allies. This book is full of historic information. There are twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat. There are disturbing images about the manner of death these children faced. There is a touch of romance and a conclusion that will make you say "you go girl." If you like historical fiction, mysteries, don't mind a little romance, and your not too squeamish about murders involving children- this is the one for you.
soon2bauthor More than 1 year ago
This book has a witty plot it's a who done it, and why book. It took us through all the steps that anyone could wish for. Forbidden love, S & M, child murder. How's fault is it? A women who is traveling with a Black eunuch, and a investigator Jew. Though much of the action screams of a "B" horro movie plot, it can be over looked. This book even had the trial that is mostly always absent from other arrested murderer book. Truly a fun and good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
mabeky More than 1 year ago
Great premise - new twist on mysteries and quasi-historical fiction. Found the book enthralling and well written. Would highly recommend this author and this book.
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PhyllisW More than 1 year ago
This is a book for someone who likes historical fiction and mysteries. The book draws you into 1171 and Henry II's reign, the treatment of women, especially by authorities, and the crusade. The characters are engaging, especially the protagonist, a doctor trained in Salerno!! There are excellent red herrings which draw you away from the real killer. A very good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've recommended this book to so many; it is at once charming, suspenseful, historical and intelligent!
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YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
I was completely unaware of how long Forensic Pathology has been an active, recognized profession. Until I read this book, I thought this profession was less than 100 years old (according to Wikipedia, Forensic Pathology was recognized as a profession in the U.S. in 1959). I am always delighted to learn new things and this book informed me that there were practitioners of this discipline in the twelfth century. Ms. Franklin has discovered a fresh, interesting basis for a detective series in Mistress of the Art of Death. To fully enjoy this read, the reader must readily disbelieve that: 1) there were people doing autopsies when death (and pain) was part of God’s plan and to question “God’s design” was to be put to death as a heretic and 2) the world’s leading expert in this field was a woman, when women were seen as property, unless they were healers, then they were usually seen as witches and put to death. Once that threshold has been crossed, the action becomes plausible and quite the good story unfolds. When the children of Cambridgeshire begin to go missing, then turn up brutally killed and those being held responsible are the very wealthy (and huge tax base) Jewish community (being held captive in the King’s property), King Henry II must find who is responsible for the murders before his kingdom goes bankrupt. He requests his cousin, and King of Sicily, to send him “the finest master of the art of death” to achieve this goal. Enter Adelia, daughter of respected physicians at the University of Salerno and the best person at “talking to the dead” in the known world. Disguised as a physician’s helper (women, it was believed, were incapable of being doctors) she begins the investigation of the deaths of the children. The early portion of the book is slow. Introducing the characters, setting the scene, bringing the reader into the culture of 1170 England all are meticulously undertaken. Once the reader is clear “who is what, where and how,” the actual mystery takes center stage. The story is graphic in its description of the crimes (graphic enough to give me the willies) and bars no detail in making the smells, tastes and scenes of the river town of Cambridgeshire a reality. This is not a book to be read by or to children, aside from the premise of children being murdered, the specifics included of the crimes are far to horrific for many adults so are out of bounds for children. The only detractor I found in this work was the obvious 20th Century concepts that were common in the life of Adelia. The history of women was discarded to make this story and proved it to be a work of fiction, the mentioning of historical events notwithstanding. This is the first in a series (I possess the next two) so it will be interesting to see how Adelia fares in the ensuing mysteries England has to offer. She would like to return to Salerno, but Henry II has need for her services. It seems taxes in the Twelfth Century dictated one’s life, too. Some things never change.
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