Just finished the fourth in Ariana Franklin's series set in twelfth-century England, medieval mysteries featuring the forensic doctor Adelia Aguilar. I have enjoyed every one and look foreward to the next.
Mistress of the Art of Death begins with the murder of four children in Cambridge, England in 1171. The Christian townspeople blame the local Jewish community and they go on a murderous rampage. The Jews retreat behind castle walls and King Henry II's protection. The king wants the murders quickly resolved since he needs the prosperous Jewish community to start paying their taxes again. He asks his cousin, the king of Sicily, for help. This sends Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, a doctor and forensic pathologist, to England, accompanied by Simon, her protector, and her Arab servant, Mansur. Since a woman can't be a doctor in England without being accused of witchcraft, Mansur acts as a doctor following Adelia's instructions. It's a time of knights returning from the Crusades, Christian/Jewish/Islamic strife, and religious fervor versus scientific enlightenment, and Adelia's investigation puts her own life in peril. Ariana Franklin's novel has received positive reviews with the Washington Post saying, "It's a historical mystery that succeeds brilliantly as both historical fiction and crime-thriller. Above all, though, Franklin has written a terrific story, whose appeal rests on the personalities of the all-too-human beings who inhabit it."