Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Dead Can Talk

Title: Mistress of the Art of Death
Author: Ariana Franklin

Set around 1170, Mistress of the Art of Death introduces Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, a female doctor in a time when female doctors were more commonly feared as witches. King Henry II sends a letter to the school of medicine in Salerno asking for a doctor who can ascertain causes of death. There has been a rash of brutal murders of children in Cambridge, and the people are blaming the Jews. And the Jews just so happen to be an excellent source of taxes for King Henry.

Adelia, being the best coroner Salerno has, journeys to Cambridge with Mansur, her Saracen eunuch servant, and Simon of Naples, a Jewish spy who is very good at acting oblivious while ferreting out the truth. Mansur, pretending to speak only Arabic so Adelia can function as his "translater" and assistant, poses as the doctor to prevent her from suffering the superstitions of an ignorant England.

Along the way, Adelia meets Rowley Picot, first a prime suspect but later discovered to be Henry's right hand man. And Adelia's love interest.

A good book, with, to me, an unexpected ending. But then again, I am rarely good at figuring out whodunit.

I would have to add that the descriptions of how the children were murdered were quite disturbing. I always wonder at authors who go into such great detail about that type of thing, and for that matter, come up with it in the first place. I'd still recommend the book though.

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posted by Kate at 8:29 PM


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