Mistress of the Art of Death
2008, Berkley Books
This book follows the adventures of Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, a woman practicing medicine in the late 12th century. Adelia hails from the great medical schools of Salerno, Italy where a woman can be appreciated for her intellect and curiosity – if she works hard enough. In King Henry II’s England, however, is a different story.
Adelia is sent to Cambridge, England to investigate the hideous murders of local children. The Jews are being blamed and someone is needed to set the record straight. Adelia specializes in “reading the dead” and is skillful in autopsy and observation. Using her medical knowledge as well as her intense curiosity, Adelia reads the clues left on the dead to form conclusions.
Follow Adelia as she weaves her way around local obstacles and finds a way not only solve the case but also to practice medicine in spite of the greed, superstitions, and mistrust that abound in Cambridgeshire.
Ariana Franklin’s writing is both complex and compelling. The book stayed interesting and did not get bogged down in too many details. There were enough accurate historical details to give the reader a feeling of validity about the setting(s). Franklin’s characters are not always easy to like, but they are entirely respected for their intelligence and their willingness to be open-minded.
Overall, this is a good read and one I would recommend. Complex. Interesting. Historical. Mysterious.