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

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

by Ariana Franklin


$15.30 $17.00 Save 10% Current price is $15.3, Original price is $17. You Save 10%. View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Monday, November 26

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425225745
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/03/2009
Series: Mistress of the Art of Death Series , #2
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 162,021
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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.

What People are Saying About This

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

-Chicago Sun-Times

Reading Group Guide

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.


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.


  • 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?
  • Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    See All Customer Reviews

    The Serpent's Tale (Mistress of the Art of Death Series #2) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 112 reviews.
    LadyHester More than 1 year ago
    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.
    dragonsscape More than 1 year ago
    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!
    TWTaz More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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!
    Postrain More than 1 year ago
    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.
    LynnHarnett More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    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
    bacreads on LibraryThing 1 days ago
    I did not think this as well written as Mistress of the Art of Death or the story as good. She spent a lot of time going over what happened in the first book. But, a good read
    jmaloney17 on LibraryThing 1 days ago
    This is the second in the [Mistress of the Art of Death] series. I liked this story more than the first. I actually moved right along to the third in the series. It is becoming more and more visible how difficult it is for women in the 1100's. The first book "said" it was difficult for women but didn't "show" it very well. The Serpent's Tale showed the difficulty and frustration more.
    MarianV on LibraryThing 1 days ago
    The first book in Ariana Franklin's [the Mistress of the Art of Death] was so well done, that it is not surprising that many reader of the next book [The Serpent's Tale] found it to be not quite as good. However, I enjoyed the Serpents Tale even more. I am not a big fan of mysteries & only read them when they have an interesting setting. So I was pleased that Ms. Franklin had gone into so much detail in the medieval setting of this book. She also portrayed her characters in greater depth. After reading this, I feel much more acquainted with Adelia, Glyntha, Rowley, et. al.. The action covers a fairly short section of time, which is also an advantage, even in the heat of August, one can get a bit weary of endless snow. Ms. Franklin also lavishes attention on the minor characters, the mercenaries, servants & even those over-done royal personages, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquataine are seen as "real people". I enjoyed the book as much for its background as its plot; but those who enjoy the who-done-it genre will not be disappointed.
    catarina1 on LibraryThing 1 days ago
    I had read the first book in the series, Mistress in the Art of Death, for the Highly rated Group read on LT. It was probably the first historical fiction that I have read (outside of my passion which is Japan). At the time I thought it was "OK" but I was interested enough to read Ms. Franklin's second book. And although some reviewers thought this one not as good as the first, I felt the opposite. I'm now planning on re-reading the first one to see what I missed.What I enjoyed most about these books is the exposure to 12th century England, kings of England particularly Henry - haven't taken much interest in the topic in the past - confused by the 1sts, the 2nds. Ms Franklin makes her characters "real", gives them personality. I particularly admire her research that gives the reader much understanding of the time period.
    jasmyn9 on LibraryThing 1 days ago
    The second book in the Adelia mystery series tells the story of the death of Rosamund, the King's mistress. It is generally believed that Queen Eleanor played a part in her death and Adelia is sent to get to the bottom of it. Along the way she stumbles upon another set of murders that may or may not have to do with Rosamund's. It's quite a tangle to try and unravel for her.This book does not quite live up the first. While the mystery(s) were intriguing they did not quite unfold in as smooth a manner. The books opens with a scene that does not involve Adelia, and it disappointed me a bit to have part of the killer's identity given away in such a manner so early on. Adelia continues to grow as a character and we see how she reacts to motherhood and the potential danger to her child as she comes closer to finding the killers. I throroughly enjoyed the characters of the King and Queen, they are written in a way to be larger than life but done so in a way that makes them believable and natural.Overall a good read, but I hope the third book is more in the style of the first.
    Renzomalo on LibraryThing 1 days ago
    A very good read, but not great. Ms. Franklin again immerses us in medieval England during the reign of Henry II in which his lover, Rosamund, is murdered and Queen Eleanor is accused. Adelia is, of course, dragged from her child rearing (actually she drags the kid with her) and tasked with finding the murderer before the country boils into yet another civil war; all in the worst winter in recent memory. No small trick.The plot, however, is slow and somewhat contrived for the first three quarters of the book and builds reasonably well to a less than satisfying conclusion. More disappointing still is the apparent dulling of Adelia¿s forensic knowledge and her inquisitive edge, or so it seemed. Perhaps it is difficult to write a tale that shines in the shadow of The Mistress of the Art of Death with its inherent novelty and surprise. Still, I look forward to the third book in the series, confident in Ms. Franklin¿s prosaic abilities and her mastery of the 12th century.I would still recommend the book and await the third.
    reannon on LibraryThing 1 days ago
    Second in the mystery of the art of death series. Adelia, a woman doctor who specializes in the causes of death, is still being held in England by King Henry II, who finds her too valuable to part with. She has found a great love. They have parted, but she is left with a baby daughter she adores.Henry's mistress, Rosamund, has died from eating deadly mushrooms. His wife Eleanor is blamed for it, and the country is again on the brink of civil war - not good news in a country that endured 13 years of such a war less than twenty years previously. Adelia must find who killed Rosamund and quickly. Meanwhile the country is undergoing the most severe winter weather in memory, and it strands Adelia in Godstow Abbey with Eleanor and her fighters... and one among them in the murderer.I adored the first book, and this one is also excellent. The only reason I didn't rate it quite as highly is that the first volume had the added value of novelty. But the second book absolutely does not suffer the "software slump" syndrome in which an author's second in a series disappoints after a great first volume.More, more, I want more!
    cyderry on LibraryThing 1 days ago
    After reading the Mistress of the Art of Death, I had high expectations of [The Serpent's Tale], the sequel. Ariana Franklin lived up to those expectations and a bit more.The story is set approximately 2 years after the end of Mistress, and there are numerous changes that effect this story.When the King¿s paramour, Rosamund Clifford, dies supposedly by poison, Henry is suspicious of his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitaine and sends his dependable Bishop of St. Albans, Rowley Picot to commandeer Adelia's services and determine exactly how his lover died. Only with clear evidence can civil war be averted and Adelia is the "man" for the job. Adelia's emotions are in the forefront when the Bishop arrives because Rowley's apparently moved on in his life after she had refused his marriage proposal while she has not been allowed to return to her home in Salerno.After being persuaded that the king's wishes must be obeyed, Adelia (along with Glytha, the baby, and Mansur) accompanies Rowley to the nunnery at Godstow. Upon their arrival they are greeted with a dead body on the bridge which starts the unusual events that surround this mystery. Rowley takes Adelia to the location of Rosamund's body but first they must traverse through the walled labyrinth which guards the tower. However, it is soon determined that it is not a labyrinth but a Maze and that the contingency that is there to examine the body cannot gain the tower without a guide. Finally reaching the tower, Adelia is beginning the examination of the body and surrounding area when Queen Eleanor appears so that she may gloat over her rival's demise while unknown to everyone, the victim's maid has been waiting in a hidden chamber to reek revenge. Adelia manages to save the queen's life, who promptly envelopes Adelia into her entourage while capturing Rowley and preventing his communications with the king.Rowley escapes but we are not sure if dead or alive, and Adelia is taken along with the Queen back to the nunnery where after being snowed in, she proceeds to unwind all the threads of the mystery.The mixture of medical science of the day, observations, and political intrigue along with startling subplots and historical flavor make this as enjoyable a read as the first. I'm definitely glad that I've already got my copy of #3 from the library in hand.
    Talbin on LibraryThing 1 days ago
    The Serpent's Tale is the second in Ariana Franklin's series about "mistress of death" Adelia Aguilar. As a female medieval medical examiner kept "on call" by Henry II, Adelia must continually hide her intelligence and vocation for fear of being accused of witchcraft. In The Serpent's Tale, Henry II dispatches Bishop Rowley Picot - Adelia's former lover and father of her daughter, Allie - to bring Adelia to investigate the death of Henry's mistress, Rosamund. The primary suspect is Henry's queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who has been fomenting discontent throughout England with some of her sons. It is up to Adelia and her team (Rowley, Mansur and Gylthra) to find the true murderer before a civil war ignites in England. As Adelia and company travel to Rosamund's tower, they discover another murder at Godstock Abbey, run by Benedictine nuns. Just as the two investigations begin, a terrible winter descends on England, eventually trapping Eleanor and her entourage, along with Adelia, at the Abbey, where more curious events - and more murders - take place.Although not as strong as her first book, Mistress of the Art of Death, in The Serpent's Tale Franklin again presents a compelling mystery with a wealth of period detail. Franklin does a wonderful job of incorporating all the little details that show us what life might have been like at that time. Overall, Franklin's writing style fits the time period and subject, although occasionally I find some of her sentences a bit awkward, as if she's trying just a bit too hard. The Serpent's Tale had less medicine and more sleuthing than the first book, which is too bad because I found Franklin's depiction of medieval medicine quite fascinating. One specific theme that I questioned - or at least found perhaps a bit overdone - was the idea that Eleanor ignites the very first spark that allows for the eventual equality of the sexes in England. I was unconvinced, especially given how Franklin depicted Eleanor as a spoiled, vindictive and cruel woman. Perhaps it's true, but the Eleanor of The Serpent's Tale was not a very convincing "proto-feminist."Overall, though, the book is good - two interesting mysteries, compelling characters, and a fascinating depiction of 12th century England.
    molliewatts on LibraryThing 1 days ago
    Medieval medic/detective Adelia Aguilar is back. Since solving the horrific crimes of Cambridge's missing children, Henry II has refused to allow Adelia to leave England, instead keeping her brilliant mind "on call" in case he ever needs her again. And need her he does. Henry's beloved mistress, Rosamund the Fair, has been murdered, and Adelia's services are required to prove that Henry's estranged queen, Eleanor, had nothing to do with it - otherwise, war may be inevitable. Adelia arrives at Wormhold Tower to discover a nearly inpenetrable maze, a deranged servant, and a very frozen, very fat corpse. She soon finds herself a prisoner of Queen Eleanor herself, and they all soon find themselves prisoners at Godstow Abbey, penned in by both the weather and the overbearing and overachieving Lord Wolvercote. One murder leads to another, and then another, and Adelia is desperate to discover the murderer in their midst before he strikes those dearest to her. Meanwhile, Adelia's love, Rowley Picot, the Bishop of Saint Albans, has escaped in order to locate Henry and bring him to Godstow Abbey to stop Eleanor's conspirators before they drag everyone into another civil war.
    dianaleez on LibraryThing 1 days ago
    If you've read 'Mistress of the Art of Death,' rest assured, this one is almost as good. And if you haven't, by all means start with that. The historical background is well-researched and integrated into the novel, but, for me, it's all about the characters. Each in his/her own way is a gem: Adelia, the serious physician/scientist and new mother; Rowley, the rejected suitor and newly appointed bishop; the wiley Henry II and his sophisticated and self-centered queen. Franklin's a gifted experienced professional and the plotting is deft and the story line interesting. What's not to like? btw, if you like this one, you might want to click over and read about the earlier books written by this author under the name 'Diana Norman.'
    Joycepa on LibraryThing 1 days ago
    The Serpent¿s TaleAriana Franklin2nd in the Adelia Aguilar of Salerno series.After more or less accidentally successful in delivering a baby, Adelia is visited by one of her favorite people--Prior Geoffrey--whose thankless task is to escort the rebellious pathologist to a meeting with the Bishop of St. Albans--better known to Adelia as Rowley Picot, her former lover and father of her daughter, Allie. The meeting is contentious, since Picot is insistent that Adelia accompany him to determine what she can about the death of Henry II¿s favorite mistress, Rosamund Clifford. To say that Adelia is unwilling is an understatement; she is persuaded, however, by the specter of civil war in England between Henry and his queen, Eleanor. So, she, Picot, Gylthra, her companion and helper, the ever-faithful Mansur, and an evil-smelling dog named Ward accompany Picot and a few men to Rosalind¿s tower near Woodstock, with a stop and the discovery of a murder along the way at Godstock Abbey.Not quite so long nor so strong as Mistress of the Art of Death, this sequel is still an excellent read. Franklin has done her research well, and the period comes alive for her characters. The plot is a good one; Eleanor of Aquitaine plays a major role.Franklin¿s fortés are her descriptive prose, her characterizations, and her very keen ear for dialogue. She also knows how to keep a story moving while providing plenty of interest for fans of the medieval period along the way. The denouement is an exciting page turner. Franklin also provides an informative 4-page historical note at the end, explaining where she took liberties and why.Highly recommended.
    scarpettajunkie on LibraryThing 1 days ago
    Adelia Aguilar is still working to solve murder for King Henry II. This time it is his mistress and the weapon is poison but the thrill is how she is found. Yet the fun begins with a dead horse and body on a bridge. The bodies pile up from there literally. Mother Edyve is compelling in her wisdom. There is even a haunting scene involving Adelia's baby. The memory of the sidestory of Emma and Wolvercote will be hard to erase. Even though the story is very different it is just as enjoyable as Mistress of the Art of Death.
    jenforbus on LibraryThing 2 days ago
    The Serpent's Tale is Ariana Franklin's second book about Adelia Aguilar. In this tale, Adelia is still in England, living with the Fen's, Mansur, and her infant daughter Allie when King Henry summons Adelia to investigate the poisoning murder of his mistress, Rosamund. The initial supposition is that Queen Eleanor had the mistress murdered, but Rowley does not believe that to be the case.While Adelia is investigating at the home of Rosamund, Eleanor and her minions arrive with intentions of going to war with King Henry. They force everyone alive at Rosamund's home to travel with them, but they are ultimately forced to take up residence at the nunnery at Godstow for the winter - travel is impossible due to the snow and cold. On their way to the nunnery, another murder is discovered. And yet another murder takes place while they are confined to the nunnery. Adelia must discover who the murderer or murderers are before they harm her or her daughter. In the meantime she prays for the arrival of King Henry to rescue them all.Ariana Franklin has a special talent for transporting her readers back in time. The Serpent's Tale, like Mistress of the Art of Death, takes place in Twelfth Century England. This time period puts her heroine at a distinct disadvantage because of the way women were treated during this time period. And Franklin doesn't discount that; instead, she uses that fact to develop her protagonist. It doesn't hurt that King Henry supports Adelia, though.Adelia is one of my favorite female protagonists in crime fiction. She's smart, determined, educated; beneath that sometimes tough exterior, she's compassionate and gentle and kind. Adelia wrestles with the cultural beliefs that allow women to be mistreated in this time and place. Adelia, being from the forward-thinking city of Salerno and also having forward-thinking foster parents, wasn't subjected to many of these cultural norms before coming to England. And while there is little she can do to change their ways, she does use some rather conniving approaches to improving a few women's lives. As the reader, you can't help but cheer her on.The character of Mansur is as wonderful as ever. He's often just a silent player in the background, but that is what makes his character so powerful. He learns most by simply listening. He is at an advantage in this realm because most of the English people who surround him don't believe he can understand what they are saying, so they speak freely around him. But still, listening is a powerful tool, and he uses it to his advantage.The addition of Allie in this book brought further depth to Adelia's character. At the conclusion of Mistress, Adelia's feelings for children, specifically Ulf, were heightened. That attitude combined with her love for Rowley makes her attachment to Allie completely natural. It also brings out the softer, more vulnerable side of Adelia. Franklin's portrayal of Queen Eleanor was quite fascinating. Of course, the Queen is also a woman, and while a woman of power, still a woman. Adelia begins to see some of the same barriers in front of the Queen that are in front of every woman in this time period.While there isn't a lot of question about who is responsible for the murders in this plot, it is still a page-turner. This is not a book where a murder occurs at the beginning and the remainder of the plot is investigating that one murder. Instead a murder occurs, investigation begins, more murder and mayhem, more investigation. I think you get the picture; the action mimics the chaos of this period with mercenaries running loose at the behest of this queen. And of course the reader is constantly waiting for King Henry to show up. The turbulence of the time period, the amazingly intricate characters and an exotic setting all add up to an incredible novel. Another wonderful book by Ariana Franklin.
    lindymc on LibraryThing 2 days ago
    This was a good sequel to Mistress of the Art of Death, but not quite as enjoyable. But, still well worth my time. In this book, Adelia is asked to investigate the death of Rosamund, the favorite mistress of Henry II. Again, as in the previous book, I thoroughly enjoyed the portrayal of Henry II, as well as the carry-over characters from the earlier book. Some of the new characters in this book, including Eleanor of Aquitaine, are not as likeable.
    EndsWell on LibraryThing 2 days ago
    I loved Sharon Kay Penman's books featuring Eleanor of Aquitaine, but found this less compelling. I found the most interesting character to be Henry himself, but perhaps our fascination with royalty always makes this the case.
    emitnick on LibraryThing 2 days ago
    Those who read last year¿s Mistress of the Art of Death, a forensic mystery set in 12th century Cambridge, England, will not be disappointed by this second installment in the series. These books are so much more than mere historical mysteries, which often contain jarring dialogue and anachronistic details. Our heroine is Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar (Adelia for short, thank goodness), raised by a Christian and a Jew in southern Italy and educated by Muslims to be a doctor ¿ more specifically, to be a forensic pathologist.

    Having been summoned by Henry II to England to solve some particularly ghastly child murders in Book 1, she has been commanded to stay in England in case he should need her, and need her he does ¿ when his beloved mistress Rosamund Clifford is poisoned, Adelia must not only find the murderer but also prove that it was not Queen Eleanor ¿ for if it was, another civil war might rip England apart.

    Accompanied not only by her faithful companions Mansur (a Muslim who accompanied her from Italy) and plain-spoken old Gyltha, but also by her baby Allie (product of a love affair with a man who is now unfortunately Bishop of Saint Albans), Adelia reluctantly sets forth ¿ and is instantly embroiled in intrigue, murder, and decaying corpses.

    This book is not without flaws. Neither Gyltha nor Mansur are given much opportunity to become much more than stock characters, and baby Allie is practically a cardboard figure of a baby (although she does wet her clouts and need to be nursed). Less seriously, there isn¿t much sense of the 12th century, although Ariana Franklin takes pains to explain in an afterword that several details that seem anachronistic are actually accurate. I suppose I prefer my Middle Ages as stinky and earthy as possible, but this is just a quibble; it¿s pretty certain Henry II¿s subjects didn¿t think of themselves as either quaint or backwards. All in all, this is a well-balanced mixture of detective story and medieval saga, sure to satisfy fans of both genres.
    Helenoel on LibraryThing 2 days ago
    Excellent historical mystery involving Henry and Eleanor of Aquitaine. An engaging protagonist, interesting glimpses of twelfth century England, politics and society. Hard to put down, literally and figuratively