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Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Posted: by Emma on February 7, 2014

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Mistress of the Art of Death is a medieval murder mystery, think television's CSI or Bones, set in the 12th century. The protagonist is a forward-thinking female doctor, who is learning forensics. Adelia, the adopted daughter of a Christian and a Jew, is being trained by a coroner in Salerno, Italy. Salerno was known as a progressive city, where a female could be taught “The Art of Death.”

Meanwhile, in the English countryside, a slew of child murders have happened. The Jews are being blamed for the crimes, which they did swear they did not commit. They seek out the King of England's protection who, in desperation, sends for a Salerno doctor to investigate. Much to the King of England’s dismay, they send Adelia. Adelia, knowing they expected a male doctor, begins her investigation. She is constantly hampered by the prejudice, fear, and simple greed of the town’s people.

The murder mystery itself is quite exciting, and I had to steel myself against reading the last chapter to find out whodunit. The book does a wonderful job of portraying many modern ideas in a medeival setting e.g. the constant struggle between fact vs. belief, science vs. religion, and male vs. female stereotypes.

The tale really takes off when the suspects begin to line up, and Adelia must use the bones of the lost children to find the murderer before another child is taken. (Warning, the story is graphic in its description of the crimes and not for the faint of heart.)

I was kept guessing right up until the exciting finale. A great read for any historical fiction/mystery fans! This is the first book of a series, so if you enjoy this book, there are three more to follow!

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