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Extended Audio Sample Mistress of the Art of Death Audiobook, by Ariana Franklin Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (15,867 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Ariana Franklin Narrator: Rosalyn Landor Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Related: The Mistress of the Art of Death Series Release Date: February 2007 ISBN: 9781429586184
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A chilling, mesmerizing novel that combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the detail and drama of historical fiction

In medieval Cambridge, England, four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on the town’s Jewish community, taken as evidence that Jews sacrifice Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. To save them from the rioting mob, the king places the Cambridge Jews under his protection and hides them in a castle fortress. King Henry I is no friend of the Jews—or anyone, really—but he is invested in their fate. Without the taxes received from Jewish merchants, his treasuries would go bankrupt. Hoping scientific investigation will exonerate the Jews, Henry calls on his cousin the king of Sicily—whose subjects include the best medical experts in Europe—and asks for his finest “master of the art of death,” an early version of the medical examiner. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno. But her name is Adelia—the king has been sent a mistress of the art of death.

Adelia and her companions—Simon, a Jew, and Mansur, a Moor—travel to England to unravel the mystery of the Cambridge murders, which turn out to be the work of a serial killer, most likely one who has been on crusade with the king. In a backward and superstitious country like England, Adelia must conceal her true identity as a doctor in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along the way, she is assisted by Sir Rowley Picot, one of the king’s tax collectors, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. Rowley may be a needed friend—or the fiend they are searching for. As Adelia’s investigation takes her into Cambridge’s shadowy river paths and behind the closed doors of its churches and nunneries, the hunt intensifies and the killer prepares to strike again.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Vivid and engaging…Succeeds brilliantly as both historical fiction and crime thriller. [A] terrific book…with a dozen twists.”

    Washington Post

  • “A potentially winning formula, delivered with panache.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • Winner of the 2008 Macavity Award for the Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 E2d2 | 2/11/2014

    " This book is filled with strong characters, especially the protagonist Adelia who refuses to be anything than what she is: a 12th century forensic scientist. The writing is unique and clear, leaving much to the reader's imagination and interpolation. However, it is not for anyone squeamish about children's murders and mutilation. If you want a good mystery where the "whodunit" is difficult to pinpoint, then it's worth a read. I'm moving on to the others in the series next. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Heather Adkins | 2/11/2014

    " This book was phenomenal. I picked it out on the website where I get a monthly credit to buy an audiobook, and suffice it to say I can't imagine having thoroughly enjoyed this book in any other way. The reader, Rosalind Miles, was just fantastic, and Franklin's story is at once grotesque, disturbing, fascinating, and completely remarkable. To set a book in the 1100s! What wonderful talent it takes to do the necessary research, yet take the creative license needed to create the Character of Adelia - doctor to the dead. I look forward to the rest of the series. A much recommended book, particularly in audio form! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nancy Day | 2/6/2014

    " You can't help but admire the historical setting, and the writing's not bad. But come on, a liberated woman pathologist in the 12th century . . . I have to say, even as a feminist, I get tired of the plucky-female-private-eye-pulling-against-unfair-social-forces. Try Sarah Dunant's trilogy instead (a few hundred years later but lots more believable women). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cupcakencorset | 2/4/2014

    " An excellent start to what promises to be an extraordinarily good series, this novel brings us perhaps the world's earliest fictional forensics expert, and a woman to boot. I don't know how accurately the day-to-day life is described, and certain gritty aspects of life remain undescribed, but the characters are engaging and the action well plotted in a society that differs from ours less than you might expect. And while I am looking forward to the sequel, I find myself a bit dismayed to be following yet another ongoing series, which is all well and good... until I finish the newest entry and have to wait months or longer for the next one. (Yes, I am spoiled. Thank you for noticing.) Fans of historical novels, forensics novels, romance novels will all find something special in Franklin's creation. Highly recommended. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Deb | 1/23/2014

    " My friend has been urging me to read this book for years, so I got it from the library on Friday, and started it this morning. I can't tell my friend that I have read it, because he died this morning. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Yesenia | 1/22/2014

    " Bad ass. I've read the series and I love it. It's a medieval csi set in the King Arthur II era. It's csi because it describes accurate medical procedures practiced at that time since the main character is a coroner.Because of her medical knowledge she turns into an investigator at murder crime scenes and is able to explain how death came to be ,hence, "mistress of the art of death".There is a constant struggle in the series between fact and belief. Medieval times were cruel and people were misguided. Ignorant when it came to religion. In the series the church did what they wanted and said it was god's will. You come away feeling that in medieval times the church was really the devil encarnated because they raped,murdered, and sentenced many to death who dared to question them.The law could not touch them. This book series really gets you to think and thank god you live in the 21st century. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Helen | 1/15/2014

    " I have a weekness for historical detective fiction... This one is set in the late 12C, and centres on a saracen women doctor who specialises in what you'd now call forensic medicine - can you imagine! Set in Cambridge. So there's a fair amount of culture shock being portrayed, the depiction of the local dialect being particualy harsh. The accuracy was also a little off, but but that's a problem with setting a novel in a period, should it be accurate or just evoke the period? It does the latter, and does it quite well. It works as escapism, kept me guessing who-dun-it until the reveal and then polished the story of nicely. First in the series, and I'd read the second based on this one. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kristi | 1/9/2014

    " I liked it a lot. The story was griping but sometimes I had to think "could they really know that way back then" It was good enough to want to read the next in the series. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Colleen Eidsness | 1/1/2014

    " Loved this series of books! But there will be no more :( the author died according to a bookstore owner "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tara | 12/28/2013

    " 3.5 stars. Highly enjoyable, well drawn characters, decent rendering of Henry II. Recommended for the Schmeg. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bonnie | 12/21/2013

    " I liked this book except for the gruesomeness of the murders and the fact that they involved small children. I could not possibly have read this book when my children were small (they're grown now) because it would have been too upsetting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Minxyminou | 12/2/2013

    " An easy, entertaining read. One of the better historical fiction books I've read in recent times. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janys | 11/28/2013

    " An interesting point of view and a good murder mystery. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Roiben | 4/29/2013

    " Marvellous, 16th century medicine meets European feminism in England, well worth a read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vanessa | 10/1/2012

    " I can't wait to read the other books in this series!! Well written and gripping! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jean Wentz | 8/22/2012

    " A little slow getting into, but very interesting and suspenseful. So glad it didn't deteriorate into a sappy romance. Women power!!! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Diane | 10/21/2011

    " I thought this was one of the most engaging books I have ever read. I could not stop. The language, the characters, the scenery descriptions of this dark land, all of it was super. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rachel Berens-VanHeest | 10/17/2011

    " I think my book club will not like this one, but I ended up really liking it! And there are more! Woo hoo! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 G. Marie Warren | 10/16/2011

    " Franklin puts together an excellent concoction of mystery, historical authenticity and the macabre in her books. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sunnyssmile | 9/8/2011

    " Teilweise interessant, mit langatmigen Kapiteln zwischendurch. Ein Buch, dass man zu leicht aus der Hand legen kann. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Imelda | 7/31/2011

    " At first I found the main character quite unlikable...but the more I read, the more I ended up really, really liking her. Anyone who can swear in over three languages is great. The book was well written, although the topic was slightly disturbing. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Donna Antaramian | 7/4/2011

    " I downloaded this book because it got such great reviews - a real page turner. I don't get it .. it was just okay - it was no page turner for me. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joyce | 6/28/2011

    " Number 4 in the series--missed #3 somehow--Adelia and Mansur are deputed to accompany Henry II's daughter Joanna to Sicily for her wedding. There are serious illnesses, deaths, and meetings with a group of holy heretics--oh, and King Arthur's sword Excalibur is stolen along the way. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melanie | 6/9/2011

    " Another series of historical fiction that I've been following. I like her heroine, a woman doctor from the 12th c; apparently there were a few such women trained in the more cosmopolitan city-centers of Asia Minor and Southern Europe. An entertaining escape from the 21st c.! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tina | 5/30/2011

    " History. Mystery. Intercultural conflict. Women heroes. What more can I say? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tiana | 5/26/2011

    " Loved the way they bring her back to her home and history. Not as dark as her other stories. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Beth | 5/16/2011

    " I love this character and series. Too bad the author passed away and I will never find out what other adventures she has. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rachel | 5/16/2011

    " This was a re-read for me and I continue to feel like none of the subsequent books live up to the first in the series but I enjoy the series anyway. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elizabeth | 5/11/2011

    " Hated the ending...and the author has now passed away :( so no hope for another in the series to wrap up loose ends. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 5/8/2011

    " I loved this, in fact I got so caught up in this book that I seriously considered phoning the friend I was meeting to say that something had come up and that I had to cancel. It moves along at a good pace although the identity of the bad guy was to obvious which stops this from being a 5* read. "

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About the Author
Author Ariana Franklin

Ariana Franklin is the pen name of British writer Diana Norman. A bestselling author and former journalist, she lives in England with her husband.

About the Narrator

Rosalyn Landor has won eight AudioFile Earphones Awards and been a finalist for the Audie Award. She has worked as an actor since the age of seven, both in Europe and the United States. Her extensive list of credits includes leading roles in film, theater, and audio productions, as well as in various miniseries on all the major television networks and in such productions as Masterpiece Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes and Rumpole of the Bailey.