Mistress of the Art of Death: A Brief History

“Mistress of the Art of Death” is a historical crime novel written by Ariana Franklin. Set in medieval England during the 12th century, the story revolves around a female forensic expert named Adelia Aguilar.

The Plot

The book opens with King Henry II requesting the help of Adelia Aguilar, a renowned doctor from the University of Salerno in Italy, to investigate a series of child murders in Cambridge. Adelia accepts the mission and travels to England with her trustworthy companions, Simon of Naples and Mansur, a Muslim eunuch.

Adelia arrives in Cambridge and quickly realizes that it is a dangerous place for her as a woman and a foreigner. Despite facing numerous obstacles and prejudices, she remains determined to uncover the truth behind the murders. Alongside her, there is also the intelligent and sarcastic Jewish tax collector, Isaac of Norwich, who assists her in her investigation.

As she delves deeper into the investigation, Adelia faces resistance from the Church, which sees her expertise as witchcraft. She encounters corrupt officials, uncooperative suspects, and even becomes a target herself. Despite the challenges, she uses her forensic skills to dissect the bodies of the victims, carefully analyzing the evidence to identify the killer.

Praise and Awards

“Mistress of the Art of Death” has garnered critical acclaim for its gripping story and well-developed characters. The novel has been highly praised for its historical accuracy and attention to detail. It received the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award in 2007, highlighting its excellence in the historical crime genre.

Readers and critics have commended Ariana Franklin’s ability to transport them to medieval England, making them feel immersed in the atmosphere of the time. The book has been lauded for its strong female protagonist and the way it tackles complex social issues of the era, such as religious intolerance and gender inequality.

Key Characters

The following are some of the important characters in “Mistress of the Art of Death”:

Adelia Aguilar

Adelia is the protagonist of the novel. She is a skilled and fearless doctor, specializing in forensic medicine. Despite the challenges she faces as a woman in a male-dominated society, she remains determined to solve the ongoing murders in Cambridge.

Simon of Naples

Simon is Adelia’s devoted assistant and lover. He accompanies her to Cambridge and provides support and protection throughout their journey.


Mansur is a Muslim eunuch who serves as Adelia’s translator and friend. His knowledge of various languages and cultures proves invaluable during their investigation.

Isaac of Norwich

Isaac is a Jewish tax collector who becomes an unexpected ally to Adelia. He helps her navigate the intricate political and religious dynamics of medieval England.

King Henry II

King Henry II plays a significant role in the story, as he is the one who summons Adelia to England to solve the murders. He is portrayed as a powerful and authoritative ruler.

In Conclusion

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