Narrator: Rosalyn Landor
Publisher: Penguin Audio (2007)
Length: 13 hours 12 minutes
Series: Book 1 Mistress of the Art of Death
Set in medieval Cambridge, children keep turning up dead. The local Catholics begin to blame the local Jewish community and then the local law must lock up the Jews for their own safety. However, this is not a tenable situation that can last for long. King Henry II wants to continue to receive his Jewish taxes, and for that to happen, his Jewish constituents must be free to work and trade. He contacts his cousin in Sicily and asks for an expert on the art of death to help clear matters up. What he gets is the highly trained and skilled Adelia.
This was a fascinating murder mystery and historical fiction. First, I think like many folks, I once had this idea that the medieval ages were somewhat dark dreary, except for the tourneys. The ideas of medical degrees and college attending women are not what usually jumped to the forefront of my brain when I heard the word ‘medieval’. So right off I was caught up in what Adelia was doing in this story. Yes, she had to push to be allowed to go to university in Sicily and she had a fair amount of bullying from idiot men, but she persevered and got her medical degree. Now, she is a medical examiner of the dead.
Yet here in Cambridge, where very few people have any education at all, she has to cloak her skills in the role of assistant to the ‘real doctor’, her male travel companion. Cambridge is full of superstition and bad blood between rivals. There’s so many pitfalls for Adelia as she tries to go about her gruesome work. And gruesome it is indeed! Unfortunately, these children did not have an easy death and studying the remains is difficult work on several levels.
As she and her companions narrow in on the killer, things get more dangerous. Not everyone gets out unscathed and that was a definite sorrow. However, it added weight to the story and reminded Adelia that she and her group were not untouchable.
I loved all the medical stuff too. It’s very interesting to me what people can deduce and analyze when they have so little to go by. It’s not like Adelia has an 18th century lab to tinker around in. Nope. She’s got a cold stone slab in a chill room with a few candles, a handful of medical instruments, and her own wits. It was a pleasure to watch her work. Definitely looking forward to Book 2!
Narration: Rosalyn Landor was a great choice for this audiobook. Her voice for Adelia is both rich and compassionate. She brought the right amount of emotion to any situation in this book. Her accents were well done and all her characters were distinct.
What I Liked: A deep mystery; religious politics; Adelia’s degree; medical stuff; the Cambridge medieval setting; the story has weight; a satisfying ending.
What I Disliked: Nothing – a very good book.
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