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First Sentence: "And God was angry with His people of Somerset so that, in the year of Our Lord 1154. pm the day after the feast of Saint Stephen, He caused an earthquake that it might punish them for their sins..." Thus wrote Brother Caradoc in Saint Michael's chapel in top of Glastonbury Tor, to which he'd scrambled, gasping and sobbing, so as to escape the devastation that God with his earthquake had wrought on everything below it.

King Henry II is fighting to suppress the rebellious Welsh, who still believe the Ancient King Arthur will rise up to rescue them. One of Henry's prisoners tells of a vision his uncle had 20 year's earlier of seeing monks bury Arthur at Glastonbury. Henry orders that there be an attempt to find Arthur's bones and sends for Adelia to make the verification.

When an Ariana Franklin book shows up at my door, all other life stops. Franklin is an author from whom I know I shall get a wonderful story. This book was no exception.

With historical mysteries, I always start by reading the Author's Notes. I like knowing what is historically accurate and what liberties have been taken. In this case; there were not many. The depth of research is evident and educational. Herbs, weapons, law, forensic science, and medicine during this period are masterfully woven into the story.

Franklin's writing is so visual; it is as if watching a film. The descriptions are rich and, even when the scenes are unpleasant, so well done. I liked the use of lucid dreams, the inclusion of Excalibur and a very nasty version of Robin Hood and his men.

The characters are wonderful. Adelia is smart, strong and caring. Although focused on her task at hand, she is even more concerned about her friend, Emma, who, along with her son and staff, has disappeared. All the characters are three dimensional and believable, although I shall always hear Henry II as having Peter O'Toole's voice.

The dialogue is often funny providing laughter amidst the drama, as is true in life.

Is this a perfect book? No, as there are a few too many coincidences. Is it a great read? With humor, drama, suspense and a dash of romance: Absolutely!
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Adelia - Mistress of the Art of Death - has been asked to find out whether two skeletons unearthed at Glastonbury are Arthur and Guinevere. Henry wants to convince his rebellious Welsh subjects that Arthur really is dead and not about to come to life and lead them into battle against him. Adelia and her entourage set off towards Glastonbury having joined forces with the widowed Lady Emma Wolvercote and her small son who are travelling in the same direction.

Identifying the skeletons is not as easy as it might have appeared and Adelia must brave many dangerous situations before her task is complete. There are vested interests in Glastonbury who do not want Adelia to find out the truth and Emma and her companions disappear. This is an exciting story which brings the twelfth century vividly to life. There is a useful author's note at the end of the book which explains the changes the author has made to historical fact to suit the mechanics of her plot.

Even if you haven't read the two previous books in this series you can still enjoy this one as each story is self contained. There is some violence in the book but it is part of the story and is not graphically described. In this book Adelia is mainly dealing with skeletons so there is minimal description of decaying bodies.

It's good to see the Bishop of St Albans is still very much alive and kicking and he plays quite a large part in this story as does Henry II himself. I love the characters in this series; even the villains have their good points and no situation is ever black and white. I shall look forward to the next episode.
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on 17 October 2009
Ariana Franklin's Mistress of The Art of Death series has got to be one of the best around. I've read all three and have found them entertaining and have never been disappointed. In the third, Relics of The Dead, Adelia has moved on from the Cambridgeshire Fens to Glastonbury, where she is investigating the appearance of two skeletons, believed to be those of King Arthur and Guinevere. Naturally things are not what they seem.
The series has attracted a great deal of criticism, due mainly to Adelia's anachronistic traits. Yes she does have some feminist ideals that don't sit well in twelth century England, but she was brought up in a different culture by 'enlightened' parents. I find it incredibly hard to believe that feminism suddenly appeared from nowhere in the late ninteenth century - keep in mind women such as Aphra Behn and Mary Wollstoncraft, both pre-19th century, both with feminist leanings. There have always been people ahead of their time, otherwise the human race would have never moved on.
As to the cleanliness issue, there was actually a physician practising in fourteenth century Nottingham, called John of Aderne, who used anaesthetics and believed in good hygiene, long before Florence Nightingale was even heard of.
I'm not suggesting that this series is perfect and with any book it's very much about personal taste, but if you enjoy interesting well rounded characters and good plots that contain both serious issues and humour, then give these a try.
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on 29 September 2010
This is one of my favourite recent series and I have greatly enjoyed reading this third book. What has attracted me most to these books includes their originality and the ever-present sense of the unusual that the author has given to her characters and their subsequent adventures.

Adelia is a thoroughly likeable, but often obstinate and volatile character who is certainly out of place in a male, nobility dominated, medieval England. Accompanied by her ever stalwart companions Gyltha and the Saracen Mansur, this band of friends certainly raise eyebrows wherever they travel.

Working again under the direct orders of King Henry II, Adelia and her friends set off to Glastonbury in an attempt to identify two mysterious skeletons which may have massive economic potential for the local area; particularly if they can be identified as Britain's most famous Dark Age couple.

As is to be expected by now, things never run smoothly for Adelia and company, especially when they undertake one of the King's impossible missions and it is not long before there are several sub-plots linked into the main story. I'm not going to reveal any more about the story, but let me assure you, this is my favourite book of the series to date.

Adelia is changing in this book (emotionally) and she shares with the reader a wider range of emotions and aspirations for her future that have previously been guarded by her independent, stubborn mentality. With a growing child and her realisation that she does truly love Rowley, this book has an added romantic suspense with has formed due to her insecurity and reluctance to change.

Will she settle down and live the quiet life? Somehow I doubt that very much!
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on 5 November 2009
Relics of the Dead is a worthy successor to the first two in this series. I enjoyed the first two and this, the third in the series, did not disappoint. A cracking plot, vivid descriptions of medieval life and a likeable heroine. I love these books and can't wait for the next one.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 October 2009
This book was also released with the title "Relics of the Dead".

England of 1176 under the rule of King Henry II was not a time when a woman was accepted as a doctor. Consequently Adelia Aguilar kept up the pretense that her Arab attendant, Mansur, was the doctor and she was his translator. Fortunately for Adelia the King had already accepted her knowledge and her vocation and had no problems with calling her in to help solve the mystery of two skeletons found buried in the same coffin. Was it possible that King Arthur and Guinevere had been buried at Glastonbury Abbey? Henry needed for these bones to belong to Arthur and Quinevere to help quiet the Welsh uprisings he was having to fight. Although the king wanted the truth to be found, he certainly would have been pleased to have the truth become a weapon for his political use.

I enjoyed Adelia with her passion for using science and truth to solve mysteries. Even having to hide her abilities because she was a woman did not slow her down for very long and she was adept at turning situations to her favor with her insight into human nature. People wanted to believe that Mansur was the doctor simply because of his gender. Then let them believe that, Adelia would just work around that problem. Perhaps her character was written with just a touch too much "modern" woman for me, but I do understand that she could not possibly perform the functions of the novel's main character without stepping outside her time period in many situations. And besides, how else were we as readers supposed to feel sympathy for this woman while also remaining interested in the perils she was encountering?

I especially enjoyed this novel from the standpoint of watching the legal system of England undergo significant changes through the forward thinking of this monarch. We begin with legal rights being determined by mortal combat. The champion remaining alive after the battle represents the winner of the legal case. By the end of the story Henry II was instituting sweeping changes by introducing judges, juries, and traveling courts to hear cases from the lowliest peasant to the loftiest nobleman. The story also weaves in the legend of King Arthur and how he might have died, where he might be buried and what happened to his magic sword, Excalibur. All of these things figure extremely prominently in this novel and I enjoyed reading how a man who was already a legend at this time was still having an effect on political and personal lives throughout this country. This author does deviate from historical facts in some instances, but she acknowledges that in her Author's Notes.

After becoming acquainted with the characters in this novel I will actively look for the other books in the series . I think the writing of Ariana Franklin was very good and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent reading this story. Not only did it keep me entertained, but I also learned many things regarding law and order in the twelfth century.
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on 27 June 2014
Detail of life in the Middle Ages takes all sorts.I am sure this could happen not over the top.What terrible lives the lower ranks lived and how mobile the upper classes were the effort of travel even with servants hardly seems bearable.
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Personally I've loved Ariana's previous novels so you can pretty much bet that I had to grab this offering fairly quickly to enjoy the full extent of the overall story arc present within. As usual the cast is gripping and Ariana weaves a tangled web of deceit, duplicitous cast members and an arc that will keep you guessing as to the events as she distracts with the left whilst the right works the magic.

It's a cracker of a series and theres very few for me who give other historical crime authors a serious run for their money. Whilst you can read this novel as an independent you'll sadly have missed out on a great set of storytelling, an intriguing cast list and above all a time period that will not only keep you glued but dispel the myth of the honourable knight in this murky world of death and intrigue. Cracking stuff.
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on 10 April 2011
Having really liked the previous books in the Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin, I was a little underwhelmed by Relics of the Dead. As with the other two books the story is set in England at the latter end of the 12th century during the reign of Henry II, the Plantagenet king who despite his many achievements and strong leadership will always be known as 'that one who did for Thomas Becket'. The majority of the action takes place around Glastonbury Abbey amidst rumours that the skeletons of King Arthur and Guinevere have been found. Henry sends Adelia and her little entourage off to discover the truth of the matter in the hopes that proving that 'The Once and Future King' is well and truly dead would help him with his dealings with the rebellious Celts. Most of the characters seem somewhat diluted from their previous portrayals. I do still like Henry though, even if the author does tend to emphasize his sense of humour maybe a little too much. The book is strongest when exploring some of the historical themes e.g. Henry's judicial reforms in a land where such things had previously been decided by Trial by Combat. There are some interesting musings on the way legends and myths evolve and you can't really find anything more legendary or mythical than good old King Arthur. The horrendously psychopathic Wolf and Scarry surely couldn't be the germ that sparked Robin Hood... could they *shudder*. Where the book really disappoints though is with the softening of Adelia's character and the lack of any real mystery for her to be challenged by. Instead there are a handful of smaller mysteries that practically resolve themselves. Still a very readable book but it didn't quite evoke a sense of place as Mistress of the Art of Death did with its 12th Century Cambridge or The Death Maze with its bitterly cold towers, mazes and landscape.
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on 19 January 2013
Starting with Book One is always best, but in this third offering the characterisation and storyline are as vivid and gripping as ever. Think of Sansome or Parris and you'll really appreciate the quality of writing here. A twelfth century Temperance Brennan (Bones), with a very strong supporting cast. As with the previous stories the attention to detail is superb, and will certainly keep you enthralled and entertained.
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