When I first started reading Ariana Franklin’s “Mistress of the Art of Death” series, I had mixed feelings about the premise, which is that a 12th century Jewish woman doctor is trapped in England because of her usefulness to Henry II and is in love with a bishop. However, these books are well written and show a great deal of knowledge of the time and place. Ultimately, I find the books interesting and the characters compelling.
Adelia Aguilar is a medieval forensic pathologist trained in Italy who is forced in England to pretend that her Moorish servant Mansur is the doctor and she is his interpreter, since no one would believe a woman could be a trained doctor. In A Murderous Procession, Adelia is living a retired life in the countryside with her daughter when she is ordered to accompany Henry II’s daughter Joanna to her marriage with the King of Sicily. Adelia must leave her own daughter with Queen Eleanor until she returns.
However, Adelia herself is being followed, by a vengeful madman whose bandit lover she killed in a previous book. Unfortunately, I read and reviewed these books out of order. The previous book is Grave Goods, I believe.
Adelia’s lover Rawley is also a member of the party, but he is required to leave periodically on missions of diplomacy. In his absence, the madman incites the entire party, particularly the church men, against Adelia and Mansur, blaming them for the procession’s many mishaps.
Franklin was only able to write a few books in this series before she died. A Murderous Procession is the last. She also wrote the excellent pre-World War II book set in Berlin, City of Shadows, which I reviewed a few months ago. Her death is a sad loss to the fans of good historical fiction.