Medieval Mysteries by Ariana Franklin
Ariana Franklin’s first crime novel Mistress of the Art of Death introduced us to a young medical examiner from the prestigious University of Salerno, who is sent by the King of Sicily to help Henry II of England Someone is murdering children in Cambridge and the townspeople are blaming the Jewish community. Henry needs the Jews – or rather, he needs the taxes they pay.
As a woman doctor, a thing unheard of in England, Adelia Aguilar, has to keep her calling a secret – she carries out her investigations by proxy: her companion, Simon of Naples, pretends to be the doctor. The historical detail is fascinating and fluently presented; the plot is lively and full of suspense. The book won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award in 2007, the judges commenting:
In this seductive book, characters leap into life, scenes form a closely woven and colourful tapestry, the central figure of Adelia, the mistress of the art of death, has an unusual charm, and the plot darkens as the story progresses.’
The character of Adelia is very human and appealing, so it was good to see her appear in another novel, The Death Maze (The Serpent’s Tale in the USA): Joanna Hines, writing in The Guardian called this:
[a] wonderfully atmospheric, fast-paced and intelligent recreation of a vanished world.
(18 April 2009)
At Henry’s court, Queen Eleanor is not only stirring up revolt against her husband, but rumour has it that she has also poisoned the King’s mistress, Rosamund Clifford.
Adelia is called upon to prove Eleanor’s innocence. A murderer is at large and so is Queen Eleanor with an army of supporters. Amid the ice and blizzards of a harsh winter Adelia must penetrate the labyrinth that surrounds Fair Rosamund’s tower, and decipher the mystery of the dead woman who lies frozen within.
Book 3 in the series, Relics of the Dead (Grave Goods in the USA) was published in August 2009, to enthusiastic reviews: the smaller format paperback appeared in March 2010. The plot involves the discovery of mysterious remains in Glastonbury Abbey, possibly those of Arthur and Guinevere.
In July 2010, we had a new hardback: The Assassin’s Prayer, which finds Adelia accompanying Princess Joanna on her 1000-mile journey to marry the King of Sicily. Also in the company is someone who wants to kill Adelia. The paperback is due in August 2011.
Ariana Franklin was a pseudonym adopted by Diana Norman, a writer of historical fiction and wife of the film critic Barry Norman. She died in January 2011.