Here we are at the second Thursday in my throw-back to great reading from my past, books that are just as fantastic now as they were then. Today, I am happy to recommend a series to my mystery/crime reading friends. It's a series cut short by the death of its author, Ariana Franklin (Diana Norman) in 2011, so many great stories missed. The series features female pathologist Adelia Aguilar in 12th Century England, during Henry II's reign, a time when females were not allowed such roles as Adelia's. Often she had to disguise herself or use other means of pretending not to be in charge, although Henry II knows her true identity. The series includes Mistress of the Art of Death, The Serpent's Tale, Grave Goods, and A Murderous Procession.
I've included a description for the first book, Mistress of the Art of Death. And, yes, I would read the books in order, as you should experience Adelia's personal and professional life in their intended progression.
A chilling, mesmerizing
novel that combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the
detail and drama of historical fiction. In medieval Cambridge, England,
four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on
the town's Jewish community, taken as evidence that Jews sacrifice
Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. To save them from the
rioting mob, the king places the Cambridge Jews under his protection and
hides them in a castle fortress. King Henry II is no friend of the
Jews-or anyone, really-but he is invested in their fate. Without the
taxes received from Jewish merchants, his treasuries would go bankrupt.
Hoping scientific investigation will exonerate the Jews, Henry calls on
his cousin the King of Sicily-whose subjects include the best medical
experts in Europe-and asks for his finest "master of the art of death,"
an early version of the medical examiner. 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.
Adelia and her companions-Simon, a Jew, and Mansur, a Moor-travel to
England to unravel the mystery of the Cambridge murders. In a backward and
superstitious country like England, Adelia must conceal her true
identity as a doctor in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along
the way, she is assisted by Sir Rowley Picot, one of the king's tax
collectors, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. As
Adelia's investigation takes her into Cambridge's shadowy river paths
and behind the closed doors of its churches and nunneries, the hunt
intensifies and the killer prepares to strike again