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"CSI Cambridge" meets Brother Cadfael - only better

There is no David Caruso, and for that we are thankful. Here's what we have instead: Ariana Mistress2 Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death, an atmospheric medieval mystery with lavish attention to period detail, intriguing historical perspectives and what we in the biz like to call page-turning suspense (look, I'm still under the influence of turkey narcosis, cut my poor writing some slack).

The novel is set in 12th century England, under the rule of Henry II, who is still being slammed by the Church for the murder of Thomas a Becket by Henry's henchmen. A child murderer is slaying the children of Cambridge in horrifying ways; the mobs blame the Jewish townspeople, from whom Henry makes a healthy wage; and he wants the real culprit caught.

Thus Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, trained at the internationally famous Salerno medical school and perhaps the world's first forensic investigator, arrives in Cambridge with her axe-throwing eunuch and her compatriot Simon to track the killer.

Mistress is a fast read and a smart one - it opens with a cheeky Canterbury Tales reference - and though the book can be a bit gory, it's also thought-provoking, romantic and clever, exploring medieval religious attitudes as well as politics and the roles of women in such society (Adelia's medical school really did exist.) You don't have to be a fan of historical fiction to enjoy this novel, and my guess is by the time you finish it you'll be longing for the sequel, due out at the end of January, along with the paperback version of Mistress.


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Don't go giving CBS any ideas, Milady; they might run with it.

Brett Bayne

The cheekiest Canterbury Tales reference would be to The Miller's Tale, the reason for which should seem obvious to those who have read it.


Listen, a series based on Mistress of the Art of Death would be better than, oh, 95 percent of the CBS line-up!


Sounds good; thanks for letting us in on it!

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