• Mistress of the Art of Death

  • A Novel
  • By: Ariana Franklin
  • Narrated by: Rosalyn Landor
  • Length: 13 hrs and 12 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (1,834 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The national best-selling hit hailed by the New York Times as a "vibrant medieval mystery...[it] outdoes the competition." 

In medieval Cambridge, England, Adelia, a female forensics expert, is summoned by King Henry II to investigate a series of gruesome murders that has wrongly implicated the Jewish population, yielding even more tragic results. 

As Adelia's investigation takes her behind the closed doors of the country's churches, the killer prepares to strike again.

©2007 Ariana Franklin (P)2007 Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., and Books on Tape. All rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

 "A fabulous read...irresistible." (New York Daily News)

"Vivid and engaging...succeeds brilliantly as both historical fiction and crime thriller. [A] terrific book...with a dozen twists." (Diana Gabaldon, Washington Post)

"One of the most compelling, suspenseful mysteries I've read in years." (New York Times best-selling author Sharon Kay Penman)

What listeners say about Mistress of the Art of Death

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

History-Mystery of the Year & its only March

Adelia is sent from Salerno to Cambridge, requested by Henry II, and ordered by the King of Sicily, to look into the deaths of several children in medieval Cambridge. She arrives with Simon of Naples, a Jewish fixer and Mansur her Saracen manservant. Adelia is a doctor who "reads bodies." She is strong, straight talking, and devoted to science. She is also broadminded & has a sense of humor. On the road into town she cures a local Prior which gives her the beginnings of support in the town. The support grows as her unique qualities, and those of her companions, attract help from other people in town.

I will not give anything else away.
It's a must read. It combines everything I love in an Audible book: history, mystery, intelligence, humor, characters you care about, an excellent reader, and great writing.

34 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

good story wonderfully set

The mystery in this story is good, but the characters and setting are even better. This takes place in 11th century London, and the main character is an Italian woman doctor who specializes in forensic pathology. I wanted to stop listening and save some for an upcoming drive, but I was unable to stop. I thoroughly enjoyed this listen.

33 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Amazing!

This might very well be the most incredible book I have ever read, and the narrator, the best I've ever listened to. It took me at least a half an hour to be grabbed by the book, but after that, I was hooked---could hardly accomplish anything because I wanted to be listening to this magnificent, chilling, informative, intelligent work of art. I learned so much about the Crusades, Medieval medicine, the Catholic church, females in that era, and much much more. I can't rave enough about this book, and will undoubedtly listen to it again...despite its length.

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

well done and different

A serial murder mystery with a twist. This story takes place during the reign of Henry II, making it an historical murder mystery. The pomp and majesty of the times, the deviousness of politics (even then, some things never change!), the rivalry between the church and king, and the squalor in which the peasantry lived provide a rich and interesting background for the horrible murders that take place. The 'detectives' working with the tools of the time must find a killer of children. I thought that the narration was excellent and actually added to the story. The narrator moved between the delicate voice and accent of the female doctor, the king, his many knights, the prior and nuns and the rest with such facility that I was never really aware while listening that there was only one narrator. I was able to lose myself in the book.

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Great Woman Character

I enjoyed this book immensely. While versed in parts of English history, the reign of Henry II is new for me. The connection between the plot and its historical significance is cleverly concealed until the end. Adelia, the main character, is anything but a wilting violet and unusual for her time. I was concerned that this book would be gruesome as it revolves around the violent murders of children. While the details are set forth, they are not presented in a gratuitous or prurient manner. There are a few missteps in the writing but none that made me want to put the book down. The narration is fabulous! The author's comments setting out what parts of the book are factual and what parts are fictionalized is narrated at the end which gives the book added historical interest. I highly recomment it!

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

tour de force

This is a teriffic book, even more inspiring for its being its writer's first effort. It scores on every point - a rich plot with twists and turns, marvelous characters, engrossing period detail, even a feminist outlook to go with 12th century England! I could not rate it highly enough. It's a book I will return to. I look foward to hearing from the author again.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Fine Story

Even knowing that there was some major anachronisms in this book, I was dragged into this tale and, willy-nilly, enjoyed it very much.

Ok-- the medieval Body Farm in Salerno was a bit much. But still, I found I could grin at the concept and go on reading an interesting twist on the familiar medieval story of William of Norwich, a young tanner's apprentice discovered slain in a wood with signs of violent death. The story is known from the writings of Thomas of Monmouth. William is made into Peter of Trumpington, whose murder sets in motion a series of events that cause Henry II to send for a Master of Death from the learned physicians of Salerno in order to set matters to right in Cambridge.

Simon of Naples, a fixer, and the titular Mistress of the Art of Death arrive in England in time to join with a group of pilgrims returning to Cambridge from the shrine of Thomas a Becket and the adventure begins.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Cadfel with a kick

Sure, it's another medieval tale of mysterious murder, but it's well done. I enjoyed the pieces of verity and the story. If you don't go looking to dislike it, you'll enjoy it more than you expect. The portrayal of the king of england is especially pleasant as well as the reality of how justice was performed (more or less) in a time when it was new. At it's heart, it's a who dunnit with a little more sensetivity.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Surprising

This book started slow. Yet the slow pace of the beginning turned out to be exactly right. In a way this is "CSI" type story set in Henry II's England. The descriptive passages are hypnotic.
I love to read or listen to books where the characters are so well written as to become living breathing people. The plot and "people" were so involving I'd drive around the block to get to the end of a chapter! That is saying something when gas is 4 bucks a gallon:)

Despite the murders the book isn't gory. It is very intense though. I enjoyed it very much and am eagerly awaiting the next installment. The reader, Rosalyn Landor, was marvelous.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

This is a warning

I love historical fiction, and really looked forward to this tale of an Italian female physician in the time of Henry II (which I had learned about in the New York Times Book Review). But I am returning it unfinished. The characters are interesting (the aforesaid physician, her eunuch bodyguard, the English kid and his grandmother, the crusader/tax collector) and I am not unusually squeamish, but the torture and sexual violence against children and animals in this book was just too much for me. I found myself turning to any book other than this one, dragging my feet, until i realized that I just couldn't go on.
The writing is lovely, the narrator was fine, the plot has potential, and, as I said, I liked the characters, but not enough to plow through the sadism.

8 people found this helpful

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