The Serpent's Tale (Mistress of the Art of Death Series #2)

( 83 )

Overview

The follow-up to Mistress of the Art of Death- in the national bestselling series hailed as "the medieval answer to Kay Scarpetta and the CSI detectives."

When King Henry II's mistress is found poisoned, suspicion falls on his estranged queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. The king orders Adelia Aguilar, expert in the science of death, to investigate-and hopefully stave off civil war. A reluctant Adelia finds herself once again in the company of Rowley Picot, the new Bishop of St. ...

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The Serpent's Tale (Mistress of the Art of Death Series #2)

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Overview

The follow-up to Mistress of the Art of Death- in the national bestselling series hailed as "the medieval answer to Kay Scarpetta and the CSI detectives."

When King Henry II's mistress is found poisoned, suspicion falls on his estranged queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. The king orders Adelia Aguilar, expert in the science of death, to investigate-and hopefully stave off civil war. A reluctant Adelia finds herself once again in the company of Rowley Picot, the new Bishop of St. Albans...and her baby's father. Their discoveries into the crime are shocking- and omens of greater danger to come.

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Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
This excellent adventure delivers high drama and lively scholarship from its heroine's feminist perspective.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Franklin reintroduces the second coming of Adelia Aguilar, a character who first appeared in Mistress of the Art of Death. Kate Reading captures her brilliantly through a wonderful and eerie reading. She has a voice made for narration; steady and firm in her pitch-perfect delivery, she draws upon the foggy atmosphere created by Franklin and sets the tone vividly with her classical British accent. Reading has such a firm understanding of the story that each word becomes as crucial as the last, creating a dramatic entertainment for the listener. Her characters, including the evil Queen Eleanor, a distressed King Henry II and of course Aguilar herself, are all well-rounded, with Reading perfecting a variety of gritty dialects to fit accordingly. Reading has a knack for this genre of story; with an inherent ability to captivate her audience from start to finish. Simultaneous release with the Putnam hardcover (Reviews, Nov. 12). (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Medieval forensic specialist Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar returns to action in the second installment in Franklin's historical series (Mistress of the Art of Death, 2007). The proto-feminist "doctor of death" has come a long way. As this enjoyable romp opens, Adelia has settled into life in the fens of East Anglia, practicing medicine and trying to raise her daughter. Her peace is disrupted by the arrival of a messenger with a royal mandate. King Henry II's favorite mistress, Rosamund, has been murdered, presumably with poisonous mushrooms, and his estranged wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, is the chief suspect-Eleanor recently escaped from Henry's clutches and is known to be both wildly jealous and also brewing rebellion. Before civil war can once again tear the country apart, Henry needs Adelia to uncover the truth about Rosamund's death. At first unwilling, but keen on avoiding war, she takes on the challenge and in the process uncovers yet another murder and numerous other foul acts, as well as some unexpected information about decaying human flesh. The careful clinician of the first book has become a passionate woman and worried mother, exoticism and novelty traded for a greater range of emotion. A warm, promising continuation of the series. Agent: Helen Heller/Helen Heller Agency
From the Publisher
"A deliciously dark and effective concoction of historical fiction, suspense, romance, adventure and forensics."
-Miami Herald

"An irresistible novel."
-New York Daily News

"A brilliant tapestry of medieval life and death."
-Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Imaginative."
-Chicago Sun-Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781410406224
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 4/16/2008
  • Series: Mistress of the Art of Death Series, #2
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Pages: 567
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Ariana Franklin is the pen name of British writer Diana Norman. A bestselling author and former journalist, she lives in England with her husband, the film critic Barry Norman.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
High in the upper chamber of Wormhold Tower—a monolithic structure located in the countryside of medieval Oxfordshire—a woman lies dying. Having exhausted her prayers to God, the attending nun, Sister Havis of nearby Godstow Abbey, calls for a priest to administer last rites. The dying woman’s pathologically devoted servant, Dame Dakers, appeals to a different power to save her master’s life, performing a ritual sacrifice to the Devil. But neither God nor the Devil can rescue the woman from an agonizing death, or shield England from the political firestorm that is sure to follow. For the woman writhing in her deathbed is Rosamund Clifford, famed mistress of King Henry II, and her death is no accident. And with Henry’s rebellious wife Eleanor freshly escaped from imprisonment, there seems little doubt of the culprit—and little hope of averting a civil war that will tear England to shreds.

Ariana Franklin’s The Serpent’s Tale features the return of Adelia Aguilar, hero of Mistress of the Art of Death. Thanks to her training at the forward-thinking School of Medicine in her native Salerno, Adelia is an alien in medieval England: a skilled forensic investigator in an age of ignorance and superstition, an educated and fiercely independent woman in a culture that considers women little more than property. She is now also the mother of an infant daughter, conceived during her brief but intense love affair with Rowley Picot, the newly appointed bishop of St. Albans. Barred from returning to her native Italy by King Henry himself —who sees her as a valuable, if largely neglected, resource—Adelia has come to feel at home among the fen people of Cambridgeshire. She has also convinced herself that her feelings for Picot have been extinguished, a self-deception that is quickly exposed when the bishop summons her to Cambridge. Adelia initially refuses to answer the call of the man who fathered her child and then retreated into a life of sanctity and celibacy. But Picot’s need for her is dire. Only Adelia has the knowledge and skills to prove Eleanor innocent of Rosamund’s murder, and only Eleanor’s exoneration will prevent Henry from unleashing a torrent of military retribution against her and her nascent army.

The Serpent’s Tale broadens the canvas from Adelia’s previous adventure, moving the action west to Oxfordshire and interweaving her story with the legendary tale of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Adelia’s investigation pits her against obstacles both manmade and natural, including the serpentine labyrinth surrounding Wormhold Tower and the harrowing snowstorm that smothers the countryside after she is captured by Eleanor. Forced to take shelter at Godstow Abbey, Adelia finds herself short on allies and surrounded by threats: the violently bickering factions of Eleanor’s mercenary army, the superstitious townspeople who suspect her as a witch, and an assassin who is systematically murdering anyone who might identify him. Desperate to protect her child but also determined to provide justice for the dead, Adelia once again finds herself face-to-face with a killer—and dangerously close to becoming his next victim.

ABOUT ARIANA FRANKLIN
Ariana Franklin, author of City of Shadows, is the pen name of British writer Diana Norman. A former journalist, Norman has written several critically acclaimed biographies and historical novels. She lives in Hertfordshire, England, with her husband, the film critic Barry Norman.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • In what ways has the character of Adelia changed since the events of Mistress of the Art of Death? How do her experiences in the earlier novel inform her actions in The Serpent’s Tale?
     
  • Were you familiar with the legend of Henry and Eleanor before reading this book? How does Ms. Franklin’s portrayal of them compare to others you have read or seen? Did you learn anything about them that surprised you?
     
  • Sister Havis remarks that the icehouse at Godstow Abbey was built “long before [the abbey’s] foundation,” quite possibly by the Romans. How do details such as these enrich the storytelling? What other details does the author employ to create a sense of time, place, and history in the novel?
     
  • Some people's names in the novel are pointedly descriptive, such as the ill-humoured mercenary named Cross. What other character names seem intentionally selected in this way? How does this technique assist or enhance the storytelling?
     
  • Much as a modern woman might, Adelia rejects many of the commonly held beliefs of medieval England, such as the inferiority of women and the existence of witchcraft. Are there also ways in which Adelia’s thinking seems a product of its time? How do you think she would fare in the modern world?
     
  • In explaining his pious attitude towards his vows, Picot tells Adelia that a bishop is “…a keeper of other people’s souls. His own, yours… Adelia, it matters. I thought it would not, but it does.” Do you think Adelia is obligated to respect his beliefs? Would you consider it “immoral” if she tried to change his mind?
     
  • Mother Edyve sees the rise of “courtly love” – what we would today understand as romance —as a step towards raising the status of women. Adelia sees it as “a pleasant hypocrisy… Love, honor, respect. When are they ever extended to everyday women?” From today’s perspective, whose view do you think has proven more accurate?
     
  • How has Adelia’s role as a mother changed her view of the world? Do you think she would have been as personally invested in the fate of a character like Emma Bloat before the birth of her daughter? Overall, is motherhood an advantage or disadvantage for Adelia?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 83 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(46)

4 Star

(22)

3 Star

(13)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 84 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 26, 2011

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    Hooked!

    Quirky, absorbing, awesome fun! Armeldia is a modern woman stuck in the dark ages of science and religious horror. Her voice is unique and beautiful as she combats superstition and hatred to practice the calling she loves. She is extremely intelligent and resourceful. Forced by King Henry to solve murders, she risks her life time and again, unable to ignore the voices of the dead.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Murder in Oxfordshire

    I just began this lively little historical mystery & although mysteries are not my long suit in reading material, it is a first~rate novel. It is 2d in a series of mystery novels set in Medieveal England featuring a wonderful cast of characters. I think this will prove as pleasant a read as any Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot novel with the added twist of time period and historical background. On that score, Ms Franklin obviously has done significant research into the era and has managed to create a world that is historically accurate even though it is based on a "what if". Once I finish this installment I think I'll want to read another. And, remember, nobody does murder like the English!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Better Than the First One

    I really enjoyed Mistress of the Art of Death, but I actually liked The Serpent's Tale even more. I think I preferred the mystery involved in this book more so than the first book featuring Adelia. It was nice to return to the characters I got to know in MOTAOD and see what had happened to them since the last time, as well as being introduced to some new ones (some quite nasty ones at that). I love what a strong character Adelia is and I feel her frustration as she deals with having to hide her knowledge and bite her tongue because of a woman's "place" in her time period. I can't wait to read Grave Goods next, and I hope there are many more mysteries for Adelia and company to solve in the years to come.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2009

    Another great book by Ariana Franklin

    I just loved this book. She gives such personality to Henry II that I want to read more about him and his time as King of England. All the characters are wonderfully described and interesting. I ran right out and bought the 3rd book of the series and can't wait for the 4th!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Escape to life in the middle ages and appreciate how far we have come

    A great read for that rainy day. The main character is a well trained physician who can not practice her profession due to the superstitions and biases against women at that time. It helps one understand how far men would go to hold women back or perhaps they were threatened by their intelligence. I immediately ordered the sequel and prequel to continue my relationship with this wonderful lead character.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Grisly murder and vivid atmosphere in medieval medical mystery

    A mysterious assassin and an agonizing poisoning kick starts Adelia's second appearance - an investigation into the death of Henry Plantagenet's (probably mythical) mistress Rosalind - now reprinted in paperback.

    Rosalind's horrible death brings Henry's Queen, the elegant, scheming and wealthy Eleanor of Aquitaine, to her hated rival's pillaged estate where Adelia saves her life and is rewarded by being attached, willy-nilly, to Eleanor's entourage.

    But a massive blizzard intervenes, postponing Eleanor's rebellion, and driving them all to take refuge in a quiet, well-run nunnery where murder runs rampant.

    Motherhood and the torturous romance with Rowley nearly derail Adelia's determination to expose a ruthless killer (or two) but she perseveres through a maze of clues and misdirection to a climax of high drama. Eleanor is not quite as sharp as Kate Hepburn's portrayal in "The Lion in Winter," but she's younger and possibly more vain.

    Deliciously ghoulish and blackly humorous, with some vividly miserable winter scenes, this is a perfect novel for a snowy evening when you can thank your lucky stars you're not stuck in a sledge on the frozen Thames or huddled on a bed of straw in a draughty barn.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2008

    Absolutely Wonderful

    This should be a bestseller - the detailed research, fully developed characters, insight into the human condition and the romantic relationship between the main characters. I could not put the book down. I want to spend more time with Adelia and Rowley

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    An unputdownable tale

    Henry II is King of England and is estranged from his wife queen Eleanor, who he has imprisoned for fear she and their sons will try to overthrow him. The king¿s mistress Rosamund Clifford gives him much pleasure so when she is poisoned by mushrooms, The Bishop of St. Albans Rowley Picot goes to Cambridgeshire to fetch Adelia Aguilar so that she can investigate and find out who killed her. Adelia is forced to stay in England because she is a doctor having studied at the School of Medicine at Salerno.---------- The bishop says that it is the king¿s order that she investigate the murder and find out if Eleanor, who escaped her prison, had anything to do with the murder when they arrive at Rosamund¿s home. Adelia finds evidence that someone is trying to frame Eleanor for the death of her husband¿s mistress. Adelia saves the queen¿s life when she suddenly appears but also learns that Eleanor is at the center of the plot to overthrow the king. The bishop wants Rosamund¿s murder solved and Eleanor exonerated because the country can¿t go through another civil war. The one woman who could have shed some light on the identity of the killer was murdered and her death made to look like a suicide. Trapped in the nunnery of Godstow with the queen, Adelia continues her investigation certain that at least one killer is somewhere with Eleanor and her entourage.--------------- Fans who love the historical mysteries of Sharon Kay Penman are going to thoroughly enjoy THE SERPENT¿S TALE, a strong whodunit with a deep glimpse into a bygone era. The protagonist wishes to go home where she has some rights though she is unhappy that she is not allowed to overtly practice medicine instead she and her Arab friend pretend he is the doctor and she his assistant following his instructions. She is a bright intelligent woman who uses her knowledge to conduct a thorough investigation. Ariana Franklin is a gifted storyteller who provides historical fiction mystery fans with an exciting who-done-it. This tale is also targeted for historical fiction lovers who will thoroughly enjoy this unputdownable tale.------------ Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2013

    Stacey

    Presses our chests together and smushes them hard

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2013

    Ali

    Kisses u

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  • Posted July 5, 2012

    Good Read!

    Great follow up to the first book. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2012

    Great book

    Loved every min of it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2010

    Two of My Favorite Flavors!

    Historical Fiction and Mystery intertwined in a fascinating tale of a time long past. Adelia is a wonderful heroine. The story moves quickly and when Henry II or Eleanor of Aquitane speak in the novel, you can almost hear Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn speak.

    Have read all four in the series and hope that there are more to follow.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2010

    This book has a unique plot but tends to be a little long winded

    I enjoyed the unique plot and the offbeat characters in this book, however, many parts of it were long winded which kind of made it boring for me. Also, the main character solved all of the crimes without revealing, to the reader, how she solved them.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    CSI - Middle Ages.....

    Midevil fornsic science? You bet. Franklin takes you back through time with such ease, you feel as if you have been there yourself. Great characters, intriguing twists and turns. Mystery and suspense enough for anyone and a strong sense of time and place. Franklin has done her homework. Details of place, language, politics of the period are set down page after page, word upon word. This is what "historical fiction" should be. Heck, this is what all fiction should be for that matter. Story telling at it's finest. Sequels don't always live up to the original, this book definitely does. Try it, you'll like it.
    If you can, read "Mistress of the Art of Death" (the preqeul) first.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Interesting plot, developed charachers, pleasurable read

    I wasn't sure whether the story line was going to hold my attention, but was pleased to be surprised and drawn into the book. The author manages to blend many complex and touchingly human characters into the story, without making any of them 'plastic-like' (i.e. one dimentional). The twists and turns in the plot keep things interesting, and the writing style is both poetic and flowing, with little hidden gems of humor that got me chuckling at 2am (yep, couldn't put it down). Recommended for when you want a good book to take you on a pleasant read-trip. I am going to look for this author's first book now, and keep tabs on her future publications. A keeper.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great reading!

    Ariana Franklin brings another great adventure in The Serpent's Tale! If you enjoyed the first book, "The Mistress of the Art of Death" you will not be disappointed by this book! Highly recommend it for anyone that likes a good mystery with a twist of history.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2009

    Good reading

    I loved the book, couldn't put it down. It is fast reading and enjoyable.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Book

    Enjoyed this book, can't wait for the next chapter!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good Book!

    The first book was so great that I had to get my hands on the next book in the series!

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