Because Ideas Matter...
The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences presents
Mistress of the Art of Death
by Ariana Franklin, Berkley Publishing Group, 2008
Reviewed by Richard McGowan
CSI meets medieval England! A series of
children's murders puts Catholics and Jews on edge in Cambridge.
King Henry II requests aid from his cousin, the King of Sicily, who
sends him a forensic scientist. However, King Henry, like others,
is surprised and annoyed that Adelia Aguilar, a product of the
School of Medicine in Salerno, is the mistress of death (not the
mister of death).
Adelia brings with her some able assistants
and she relies on the help of King Henry's allies. However, the
book is about Adelia's attempts to apply scientific principles to
the investigation of the murders.
Though the feminist sloganeering sometimes
grates on the reader-history is a bit more complex than authors
normally make it out to be, the characters and plot are very well
The details regarding King Henry II's
England are wonderfully presented. In fact, I researched several
scenes in the book and discovered that Ms. Franklin had indeed done
her homework. For instance, there was a School of Medicine in
Salerno that included women in the student body; and King Henry's
personality matched the book.
There are other ways of getting an
understanding of a time and place, but a good roman a clef, where
historical events and characters are presented in novel form, is
certainly more appealing than many history textbooks. In Mistress
of the Art of Death, Ms. Franklin has used a genre associated with
murderous death to make medieval England come alive.
- Richard McGowan is instructor of business ethics at Butler