Mistress of the Art of Death

Mistress of the Art of Death

Ariana Franklin, Putnam 2007 Hardcover, Publisher's Price $25.95, Wine & Words Price $6.98

In medieval Cambridge, England, four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on the town's Jewish community, since it's long been rumored that Jews sacrifice Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. King Henry II places the Cambridge Jews under his protection—mainly to protect the tax revenue they represent for him—and calls on his cousin the King of Sicily to send his finest "master of the art of death," an early version of the medical examiner. When the feisty Adelia of Salerno arrives, however, with a Jew and a Moor as companions, she finds she must be careful in superstitious England not to be taken for a witch.

"Had Ellis Peters's Brother Cadfael been born a few decades later, he might have found a worthy associate and friend in Dr. Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar of Salerno, a short and short-tempered medieval coroner hired in secret by King Henry II to find out who's behind the horrific murders of Christian children in Cambridge.... [Ariana] Franklin has developed a skillful blend of historical fact and gruesome fiction that's more than sufficient to keep readers interested and entertained."—Publishers Weekly