Friday, July 24, 2009
MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH
G P Putnam’s Sons
“Name of the Rose” crossed with “Silence of the Lambs”???? Whichever, the premise is as old as Time. Someone is savagely murdering children, and Someone Else has to discover who and, more importantly, why.
In this case, the year is 1157 AD, the city is Cambridge, England during the reign of Henry II,who is held,to this day, responsible for the death and subsequent canonization of Thomas a Becket..Someone is murdering English children and the Jews are being blames..the same Jews who fill the coffers of the realm..the eternally scapegoated Jews....enter Simon of Naples, himself a Jew and well-known “fixer”; his erstwhile sidekick, Adelia Vesuvia Aguilar, a “mistress of the art of death”, and a Physician to boot..which fact, if widely known, could condemn her as a Witch in the society of Cambridge...throw in a Saracen bodyguard and watch them enter the story among a troupe of pilgrims returning from Canterbury with relics, sickness, and a murderer in tow...so the story begins.
and what a story! i was impressed with Ms Franklin’s scholarship regarding the historical aspects of this tale...its Politics and mores. her portrayal of everyday life and death was a joy to read. her characters were actually Characters and not dialogue-spouting cutouts. my only qualm was the intrusion of a Romantic Aspect..which sells books, i know. But Adelia was subject to self-doubt on her best days...once she encountered the Studly Rowly she went all soft and girly and nearly lost her head.....but that’s a minor quibble, given the strength of the rest of the book. i had no problem with the rather savage end of the SICKLY NUN...and the MURDERER got his just desserts as well
I’m not sure i want to read the sequel(s) in the series but i strongly recommend this first foray....4 stars at least