Saturday, May 14, 2011

Medieval Forensics

Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death, #1)Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Adelia Aguilar is an anomaly. She has been educated in Salerno and trained as a doctor.  Her specialty is forensics.  It's 1171.  In what is now Cambridge, England, several children have been brutally murdered and the local Jews have been blamed.  Henry II who is dependent on the Jewish bankers, asks the King of Naples to send a medical expert from Salerno's famous university to investigate.  Adelia is the chosen expert.  She travels to England in the company of Simon, and a Saracen eunuch who masquerades as the doctor to protect her.  As the investigation unfolds, Adelia finds support and cooperation from some- a prior returning from pilgrimage who finds great relief from her medical skills, several of the townsfolk whose trust she earns, and she meets hostility from others-  Sir Joscelyn, a Crusader knight, rabble-rouser Roger of Acton.  She is puzzled by others like the tax-collector sent by Henry to sort out debts owed the jailed Jews.

At first, I had a hard time getting into the book, and it took me a long time read (mostly because it was my bedtime reading and I've been so tired, I'd only manage about 15 minutes a night!)  I think I'll read the next one during my daytime reading!

It was a good "process" book, comparable to the forensics shows on TV like Bones or CSI.  The story wasn't the mystery, but the process of unraveling the clues, and the relationships between the various characters.  The premise of a female doctor during medieval times was interesting, though not historically accurate, but I felt that the author captured the atmosphere of the time well.

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Panhandle Jane said...

I'm waiting to get the third book in the series. I'm finding that part of the fun is looking for anachronisms. My friend tells me that book 3 is somewhat heavier in feel.

Ashley said...

Actually, medieval female doctors aren't as anachronistic as they may seem. Many women studied and taught at the Salerno University in the 1100's; including the semi-famous Trotula who wrote books on medicine. Her books were well used into the 1600's. It was the Victorians that refused to believe that she was female. You can peruse more information at your pleasure here: