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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars - A very good historical mystery
First Sentence: The two men's voices carried down the tunnels with a reverberation that made them indistinguishable but, even so, gave the impression of a business meeting.

King Henry II refused to let Adelia Aguilar return to her home at the School of Medicine in Sicily so she is living in the fens with her baby daughter Allie, companion and baby's nursemain...
Published on 6 Aug. 2008 by L. J. Roberts

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent on period detail, but sadly unsatisfying
I love historical thrillers and good writing, and they're best represented - for me and I think many others - by CJ Sansom's Shardlake books. I'm hungry for similar books and there are lots of good ones even if they don't quite meet the same standard.

There is so much this book of Ariana Franklin's, the second in her series about medieval female pathologist...
Published on 4 Sept. 2011 by utility dog


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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars - A very good historical mystery, 6 Aug. 2008
By 
L. J. Roberts (Oakland, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
First Sentence: The two men's voices carried down the tunnels with a reverberation that made them indistinguishable but, even so, gave the impression of a business meeting.

King Henry II refused to let Adelia Aguilar return to her home at the School of Medicine in Sicily so she is living in the fens with her baby daughter Allie, companion and baby's nursemain Gyltha, the Saracan Mansur, who poses as the doctor allowing Adelia to treat patients without being named a witch, and her new dog Ward.

King Henry's mistress, Rosemund, has been poisoned and his wife, Queen Eleanor is being accused. Adelia, recruited by Rowley, must prove Eleanor's innocence before the country is brought to civil war.

In some ways, this seemed a much bigger story than Franklin's first book (Mistress of the Art of Death) because of the themes.

Franklin presents a very real, unromanticized look at the time and the people in it, including Thomas Beckett and Queen Eleanor. She clearly illustrates how difficult it was to be a woman during the time as well as what life was like during civil war for those not of the ruling class.

Her descriptions are extremely visual and sometimes quite unpleasant but very effective. Although I had read the first book, I appreciated the way Franklin provided a recapitulation of the plot and the character's backgrounds sufficient to bring readers up to current to this book. It's not all politics and description.

The plot is fascinating with good intrigue and suspense with bits of romance and humor. Yes, there are anachronisms, but they are small and I've willing to forgive them when viewed against the strengths of the story. In all, it was a fascinating book and a thoroughly good read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual Mark 2, 18 Aug. 2009
By 
J. Cooper (Sheffield, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Death Maze: Mistress of the Art of Death, Adelia Aguilar series 2 (Paperback)
Dark events surround the courts of Henry II and Queen Eleanor as jealousy accompanied with murder threatens to spark a civil war!

The unusual female protagonist was a refreshing change in a genre where male detectives tend to dominate an author's attention. In this book the author has skilfully woven a twisting tale where an independent forward thinking woman utilises her skills and education in a society where women were definitely seen as second class citizens by men and the established Church.

Such is the appeal of this unusual combination of characteristics surrounding Adelia, that you can't help willing her to succeed and strongly empathise with her at key moments of the story.

The plot is certainly deceptive! Just when you think you have learnt all there is to know about the crimes and expect the author to wrap the story up, along comes a massive surprise - throwing a proverbial spanner in the works!

Unique, appealing and engrossing are labels that best describe this book. If you enjoy books set during the early medieval period and with a `fictional crime thriller flavour'; then buy this one and delve in!

Be aware however, that this is book two and there is an initial instalment in the series.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Second book in the Adelia Aguilar Series, 12 May 2008
By 
J. Chippindale (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
First, let me warn the reader that this book is also published under the title The Serpent's Tale.

Ariana Franklin is the pseudonym of a well-known author of historical novels, Diana Norman, wife of the film critic Barry Norman. She is a former Fleet Street Reporter and lives in Hertfordshire.

I thoroughly enjoyed the author's first book Mistress Of The Art Of Death, finding it well researched and very well written, so of course I was delighted when I saw the Serpent's tale in the bookshop. Sometimes in these circumstances the reader feels let down, either because the second book is not as good as the first or more likely the reader's expectations are too high. No such thing with this book, it is equally as good if not better than the first, particularly as the main character of Adelia Aguilar is now familiar to those who have read the first book.

In the first novel, Adelia initially came to England at the request of Henry I who asked his cousin the king of Sicily to send him a "Master of Death" an early version of our present medical examiner in the hope that a scientific examination would be able to exonerate the Jewish community and save them from the rioting mob who believe that the Jews sacrifice Christian children. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno. But her name is Adelia, the king has been sent a mistress of the art of death.

In the Serpent's Tale Henry II is now on the throne and his mistress Rosamund Clifford has died a painful death by poisoning. Henry's wife Eleanor of Aquitaine is the number one suspect. Henry feels that this could well be the start of a campaign by Eleanor to discredit him and take the throne either for herself or her son's. Civil war could soon break out and Henry needs an answer to the crime and quickly. Henry immediately sends for Adelia is Mistrress of the Art of Death, who is less than pleased to be brought from retirement in the country where she is spending a carefree life attending to the needs of her little daughter.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent on period detail, but sadly unsatisfying, 4 Sept. 2011
This review is from: The Death Maze: Mistress of the Art of Death, Adelia Aguilar series 2 (Paperback)
I love historical thrillers and good writing, and they're best represented - for me and I think many others - by CJ Sansom's Shardlake books. I'm hungry for similar books and there are lots of good ones even if they don't quite meet the same standard.

There is so much this book of Ariana Franklin's, the second in her series about medieval female pathologist Adelia Aguilar, to enjoy. I wouldn't go so far as to say the reader is transported into the 12th century, but the author's academic historical background gives us a marvellous description of How Things Worked in those days - what they ate, how they dressed, how they kept warm, how justice was meted out and so on, from issues of the greatest importance to the very mundane. I particularly enjoyed the way the luxurious world of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine is presented, with light where there was darkness, warmth where there was cold, and more than a hint of Versailles in the tundra.

Franklin also has a very sure touch when it comes to surprising the reader, often dropping significant plot developments into an otherwise anodyne paragraph in a way that makes you sit up and take notice.

But in the end the book was unsatisfying. It was easy to spot the villain very early on - a criticism I would make of the previous book in the series, Mistress of the Art of Death. There was also a lot of chatter about maternal love that this particular (male) reader found out of place in a thriller. I suppose that in the end I just can't identify with Adelia or her coterie.

I might be tempted to read one more because I enjoyed the first book, but it won't be for a while.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All historical fiction should be so good!, 29 April 2008
By 
Ms. N. Scott (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Death Maze (Paperback)
This is an excellent follow up to Mistress of the Art of Death (which I highly recommend you read first, though it isn't strictly necessary!) and picks up a few months after the first left off.
Adelia Aguilar is a supremely well-formed protaganist and the plot is just convoluted enough to be interesting without being long-winded or impossible to follow. The changes in Adelia wrought by motherhood are particularly interesting, which is why I recommend reading Mistress.. first.
This is a wonderful mystery, rich with historical detail that in no way leaves you feeling like you are reading a text book. It is clearly well-researched but the details simply help to immerse the reader in the story, without detracting from it. And speaking as someone who does history for a living, that is no mean feat.
For anyone with an interest in history and a love of mysteries, this is a book not to be missed and I for one am very much hoping that there will be many more tales from Dr Aguilar's casebook in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read, 12 May 2009
By 
Mrs. K. A. P. Wright - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Death Maze: Mistress of the Art of Death, Adelia Aguilar series 2 (Paperback)
The Death Maze is excellent both as a detective story and a historical novel.The plot is intriguing and well worked out and the characters are rounded human beings so that you care what happens. Although much of the plot is dark and potentially tragic, humour is used well to lighten the atmosphere without diminishing the seriousness of some of the themes. There is plenty of historical detail so that you have a real sense of place and period, but it is handled deftly so that you do not feel that you are being overwhelmed by the author's research. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Death and Misadventure, 7 July 2008
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
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If you haven't read the original novel by Ariana then where have you been. Fans of Crime novels have not only raved about this authors writing style but also the effortless ease with which history is seamlessly bound in without coming over like an info dump. Here we have the second novel within the series and its one that really doesn't let up the pace.

Brought from her retirement in the country where she's bringing up her young daughter, the "mistress of death" is returned to investigate the death of the King Henry II's Mistress. But the chief suspect is Henry's wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, the famed mother of Englands greatest king, Richard the Lionheart. But who's the killer, Henry or Eleanor or someone behind the scenes. A great read that will keep you glued to the last page.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The follow-up does not disappoint, 5 July 2008
By 
S. B. Kelly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This second outing for sleuth Adelia Aguilar, 12th century pathologist, doesn't disappoint. It's bitter winter in Oxfordshire and Adelia has been dispatched to look into the murder of Fair Rosamund, favourite mistress to King Henry II. There are rumours that the murder is the work of Henry's jealous queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine; if this is true, then it may not be possible to avoid a bloody civil war, when the horrors of the last one are still fresh in the memories of England's poor.

Adelia arrives to find a second murder and others inevitably follow. The investigation of these murders is, it has to be said, perfunctory, but it matters little: Franklin's strength lies in the creation of her characters and her strong sense of place and time.

I'm looking forward to the next installment.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical crime fiction with a difference, 1 Mar. 2008
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This review is from: The Death Maze (Paperback)
This sequel (hopefully the first of many) to the brilliant "Mistress of the Art of Death" is just as enjoyable. The heroine, Adelia, is a satisfyingly complex and independent character, and her role as an outsider enables the author to cast a new light on England in the reign of Henry II. Real historical events and personalities - most notably, Fair Rosamund of Woodstock - are convincingly integrated into the narrative. The book works well as a mystery, as a historical novel and as a rather unconventional romance. But its real strength comes from the rich seams of ideological debate and political intrigue that underly - without ever overwhelming - the story, as well from the staunch, uncompromising integrity of the main protagonist.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good Yarn, 3 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: The Death Maze: Mistress of the Art of Death, Adelia Aguilar series 2 (Paperback)
This is a nice, atmospheric historical whodunnit. Particularly refreshing in that the main protaganist is female. I did find my concentration wandering throughout this read. This may be because I have started with the second book in the series, another reviewer does recommend starting with the first book. Set in the rule of Henry II, our heroine from Salerno uses evidence from murder victims to detect the villain as only a Medieval CSI would be able to.

Herein lies the rub - I can't believe that we have an historically acurate read. Or even factually acurate. Not being a history buff, this didn't really bother me. So don't bother if inaccuracies are going to irritate you, otherwise its not a bad read.
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The Death Maze: Mistress of the Art of Death, Adelia Aguilar series 2
The Death Maze: Mistress of the Art of Death, Adelia Aguilar series 2 by Ariana Franklin (Paperback - 9 April 2009)
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