Series: First in the Art of Death series
Genre: historical mystery
Length: 13h 12m
Audio publisher: Penguin Audiobooks, 2007
Read by: Rosalyn Landor
From: local library
Story: Cambridge, 1171. A child has been murdered, and the town blames the local Jews. Since the Jewish population is locked in the local castle, they're not generating revenue. This doesn't sit well with King Henry II. In an effort to exonerate the Jews and get the taxes flowing, he sends for a "Master in the Art of Death."
Adelia is a physician and pathologist in progressive Sicily, but she could get herself killed in backwater England where women who know too much are called witches. Adelia needs to learn as much as she can about Cambridge's farmers, crusaders, tax collectors and clergy quickly and without giving offence, not her strong suit. She's not sure if she can trust anyone, but she has to find the killer before another child dies.
Thoughts: After a slow start with too much introduction (three preambles) the narrative takes off. Adelia is a fabulous, strong female character. I'm not sure if her difficulties relating to people are because she's Sicilian and doesn't understand English culture, because she's dedicated to her work so not picking up social cues, or if she just didn't care. She reminds me of the TV version of Bones, so she may have Asperger's syndrome. Of course, most of her issues are people saying "women don't do that," which she doesn't stand for. Instead, she fills us in on the state of medieval doctoring. I never know if washing one's hands in brandy is something one person of that time might think of or if it's all imposed on the characters from our modern perspective, but it's fun to see what goes on and what Adelia thinks about it. I especially liked her asking for vegetables and everyone else groaning about how she's such a picky eater.
Reading: Rosalyn Landor is an audiobook superstar. Her voices in Mistress of the Art of Death are spot-on, from the king to the sheep herder. I especially loved the little kids. She also aced my person audio hurdle by pronouncing "pastie" correctly. Not everyone does. Well done!
Final thoughts: A great medieval medical mystery. I'm looking forward to the next in the series!
Grade: 4.5 out of 5