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Grave Goods (Mistress of the Art of Death, #3) Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin

I wasn’t quite as hooked by this one as I was by Mistress of the Art of Death and The Serpent’s Tale, but still a compelling combination of history and forensics. The plot didn’t feel quite as tight as the first two – there were many, many small mysteries to solve along the way which stole some of the excitement from the finale. Listening to the audiobook, I kept thinking “there are really three discs left? What on earth can happen?” Still, fans of the first two books will want to give it a read or a listen.

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The Serpent's Tale The Serpent’s Tale by Ariana Franklin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
While it stands alone in terms of plot, I would recommend reading Mistress of the Art of Death first, because the stories are really more about the characters and their world than about the mystery. Like the first book, this one has its gruesome and disturbing moments, and the England of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine is never romanticized. Adelia continues to give us that handy outsider perspective and of course uses her medical knowledge to solve murders that others don’t even recognize as more than accidents, the work of highwaymen, or suicide. The supporting characters always keep things lively, including Adelia’s baby, who is more realistic and fleshed out than most fictional babies. I’m glad I switched to the audio version for this installment, because the reading is really, really excellent – Kate Reading’s voice makes it impossible to imagine any other, and she does fantastic, fairly subtle voices.

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Mistress of the Art of Death (Book 1) Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you want forensics and historical fiction all in one place, this is the book for you. While I was occasionally distracted by wondering how historically accurate Adelia really was, the story was fascinating enough that it didn’t bother me. Franklin did, however, seem to go to great lengths to show how and why Adelia was unusual for her time – she was not depicted as just some strong, educated, un-superstitious fluke but a product of an unusual upbringing. There were also frequent mentions of how if the locals knew what she was really getting up to, she’d be hung or tossed in the river with little debate. Apart from that issue, it was a fascinating depiction of life in medieval Cambridge. The plot does deal with some horrific violence against children, which to me was worse than the descriptions of examining corpses. Still, the characters were nuanced and flawed and compelling, and I’ve already got the next book (The Serpent’s Tale) waiting for me.

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Recommended by Leila.

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