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Publisher's Summary

In medieval Cambridge, four children have been murdered. The Catholic townsfolk blame their Jewish neighbors, so to save them from the rioting mob, the Cambridge Jews are placed under the protection of the king. Henry II is no friend to the Jews - or anyone, really - but he believes in law and order, and he desperately needs the taxes he receives from Jewish merchants. Hoping scientific investigation will help to catch the true killer, Henry calls on his cousin, the King of Sicily, whose subjects are the best medical experts in Europe, and asks for his finest "master of the art of death", the earliest form of medical examiner. The Italian doctor chosen for this task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno, an expert in the science of anatomy and the art of detection. But her name is Adelia; the king has sent a "mistress of the art of death".

In a backward and superstitious country like England, Adelia faces danger at every turn. As she examines the victims and retraces their last steps, she must conceal her true identity in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along the way, she's assisted by one of the king's tax collectors, Sir Rowley Picot, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. A former Crusader knight, Rowley may be a needed friend - or the fiend for whom they are searching.

As Adelia's investigation takes her along 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.

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

Critic Reviews

"Franklin...delivers rich period detail and a bloody good ending reflecting the savagery of the times." (Booklist) "A skillful blend of historical fact and gruesome fiction that's more than sufficient to keep readers interested and entertained." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

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  • Overall

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.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


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.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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.

23 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Linda
  • Rogue River, OR, United States
  • 12-08-07

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.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Rose
  • Chesapeake, OH, United States
  • 03-08-07

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.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Marian
  • Minneapolis, MN, USA
  • 04-11-07

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.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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!

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great period mystery

I loved this book. Great detail and I didn't figure it out. Some might call it graphic for the subject matter but it really was a great mystery and very well written and read. The fact that this is basically a medical pathologist in the middle ages who is a woman makes it really interesting. The differences in science between Italy and England during the Dark Ages and the Renaissance are referenced ALOT. Not sure how much historical accuracy there is regarding the medical knowledge but... if I wanted accuracy i would read non-fiction... if you looking for a great story here you go. Enjoy

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


There were some lovely images and the times the author shifted from the "story" to the surround made me feel grounded in the narrative. Several of the characters were complex enough to be real. As in life, sometimes first impressions changed. I could listen to the narrator indefinitely. It sounded to me as if as many people were reading it as there were characters. If you like mysteries and you can countenance descriptions of children being hurt, don't miss it.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful