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The Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death 1) [Hardcover]

Ariana Franklin
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 May 2007 Mistress of the Art of Death 1 (Book 1)
Winner of Best Historical Crime Novel 2007. In Cambridge a child has been hideously murdered and other children have disappeared. The Jews, made scapegoats by the all-powerful Christian clergy, have been forced to retreat into the castle to avoid slaughter by angry townspeople. Henry, King of England, is displeased. The Jews provide a large part of his revenue and therefore the real killer must be found, and quickly. A renowned investigator, Simon of Naples, is recruited and he arrives in town from the continent accompanied by an Arab and a young woman, Adelia Aguilar. There are few female doctors in twelth century Europe, but Adelia is one of them, having qualified at the great School of Medicine in Salerno. What's more, her speciality is the study of corpses; she is, in fact, a mistress of the art of death, a skill that must be concealed in case she's accused of witchcraft. Adelia's investigation takes her deep into Cambridge, its castle and convents and in a medieval city teeming with life, Adelia makes friends and even finds romance. And, fatally, the attention of a murderer who is prepared to kill again...

Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press; First Edition edition (7 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0593056493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593056493
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 890,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ariana Franklin was born in Devon and at twenty became the youngest reporter then on Fleet Street. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Mistress of the Art of Death, The Death Maze and Relics of the Dead, all featuring anatomist Adelia Aguilar.

Photography © Mary Jane Russell

Product Description


"a morbidly entertaining novel"
-- NY Times

'Delightfully original'

'Entertaining, well researched and well written' -- JOANNE HARRIS, August 06

'The deserved winner of this year's ELLIS PETERS HISTORICAL DAGGER is a cunningly plotted tale... Great stuff.'
-- The Observer, 9 December 2007

Entertaining, well researched and well written. -- Joanne Harris

Terrific...Wonderfully plotted, with a dozen twists...A historical mystery that succeeds brilliantly as both historical fiction and crime-thriller. -- Diana Gabaldon, Washington Post

Book Description

Winner of the CWA Best Historical Crime Novel of the Year

Medieval England. A hideous murder. Enter the first female anatomist...

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual 26 April 2010
I read the second book of the series before this one and therefore did not totally understand the histories of the main characters. I can safely say to any prospective reader that whilst the second book can be read as a stand alone novel, I would heartily recommend you read this one first.

Adelia, the main protagonist, is a fascinating but completely alien character to this early medieval environment in which she has been placed. However, if you are prepared to overlook the fact that Adelia's medical knowledge and social demeanour do not really belong in this period of time, you are in for a very absorbing read.

The book is certainly not for the fainthearted as the central plot involves the murder of children; at times described in quite graphic detail. If this is likely to cause upset or distress, then you should probably give this book a miss.

Fans of C. J. Sansom should enjoy this read as it's quite similar in style and genre. Adelia proves to be quite a likeable character once you get to know her and will probably become a firm favourite of many people to come.

If you are looking for a historical "Whodunnit" then look no further.
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90 of 97 people found the following review helpful
By Hamstead VINE VOICE
On the one hand I enjoyed this novel very much. Ariana Franklin is a consummate story teller and her characters and the setting in which they act and react are wonderfully realised. You can actually believe you are there with them in the world she has built. There are some delightfully realised secondary personages. I was particularly fond of eelwife Gytha and her cheeky urchin son, Ulf. Henry II is spot on and I really warmed to Ariana Franklin's version of this fiercely intelligent king with his mingling of imperious authority and mischievous common touch - Bravo! It's a page turner, no doubt about it and for all the above reasons I would be glad to give it five stars.
However.... Abandon all hope of historical veracity ye who enter here. There are the usual detail errors that irk me because I know my 12th century and further irk me because the author claims on her website that she is historically accurate. I think not! Mention of brandy and laudanum which were not available in that century - so therefore some of the scenes could never have happened. Three Angevin lions when there were only two until the early 1190's. Costume errors. Sometimes it was more like reading about Chaucer's Pilgrims than the Becket bunch. Images such as Henry II talking about his billiard table (conjures a hilarious image of Henry with his cue in hand leaning over a table in the smoky fug of a bar!) or having his head referred to as a cannon ball, yanked me straight out of the story. There are errors peppered throughout the novel both the large and the small, of detail and of mindset.
The heroine is a woman of 21st century sensibilities, who also acts like a 21st century TV forensic expert.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the better books in this genre 10 April 2010
I would have thought the comparison to be made when reviewing this book is with other historical detective fiction rather than Diana Norman's other works. By that standard this a good read, far better than the average potboiler in the genre. All these books are anachronistic and this is no different - but as the whole thing is a bit of fun it hardly matters. If you've read C J Sansom you should enjoy this. I wouldn't say it's as good, but is certainly a promising start to a new detective series.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, gripping and well-written 26 July 2011
I've read a couple of negative reviews on this book, pointing out small details that are historically inaccurate. I'm not a historian, nor do I know a lot about the 12th century, so there was nothing to pull me out of the novel's world. I do know a little about the period, and I did greatly enjoy the characterisation of King Henry, and the English characters' general xenophobia felt accurate to me also.

The novel has a prologue and an epilogue and initially I found the voice of the prologue quite difficult, not just because of its omniscient narration but because it addresses the reader in a way I haven't seen in many recent novels. It felt quite 19th Century to me, and that's not a good thing to my taste. That said, the intrusive narrator soon disappears and the plot and characters gripped me rapidly.

The main character is fabulous. Yes, her views are quite modern (which may have irritated some other reviewers), but to me that's entirely consistent with a woman doing an uncharacteristic job and encountering prejudice on a regular basis. Or, more accurately, having to go to extraordinary lengths to avoid the prejudice that could see her put to death as a witch!

As a crime novel, there is some unpleasant detail - this is a book about a child murderer, after all - but considerably less than many others I've read. The text also doesn't delve into the psychology of the murderer, which seems historically consistent to me. Psychoanalysis as an explanation for criminology is a pretty recent concept, after all.

On a personal level, having grown up in East Anglia, I really enjoyed the depiction of Cambridge: its atmospheric fenland and especially the local dialect, which was very effectively drawn and frequently made me smile in recognition.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly entertaining, moving and leaves cthe reader better informed...
This, the first of four novels (I guess there would have been more if the author hadn't died), is the story of Adelia, a 14th century doctor trained in Salerno, Sicily which was at... Read more
Published 1 month ago by John Landell Mills
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
This is the first Ariana Franklin book I have read and I can highly recommend it as a real page turner and I love learning about history in such an enjoyable and exciting way. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Teecee
3.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing historical mystery
My reason for reading the novel was simple: I want to read the third in the series which is about Glastonbury, a favourite place of mine, and it is always best to start at the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Rosie Gamgee
4.0 out of 5 stars Well I Liked It!
Medieval mysteries are my favourite read and I've read some of the usual suspects that write this genre. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Karen Miller
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I know previous reviewers have been critcal of some of the historical facts, but I looked beyond that and thoroughly enjoyed it for what it was, a "whodunnit" with an... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Fiona Ford
5.0 out of 5 stars Page turner!
This book had been recommended to me and did not disappoint.
Story and story telling both excellent -- great imaginative plot line with really good descriptive narrative. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Michael Hall
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!
This was my first book of this author. Wow! I love her style and historical detail. Keeps you guessing until the end.
Published 8 months ago by pamela
5.0 out of 5 stars What a read
The work that went into this book is fantastic cant wait to read another Ariana Franklin book. Must also read See you in the morning written by her late husband
Published 8 months ago by mrs j bannister Joan Bannister
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
This is a terrific read, and the main character totally believable. I've bought this as a gift after reading all Ariana Franklin's Adelia books. Read more
Published 13 months ago by johnbagshot
5.0 out of 5 stars Mistress of the Art of Death
A refreshing take on the historical detective genre, written and plotted well enough to keep me reading past the time I should be asleep! Read more
Published 14 months ago by Annette Bottomley
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