Ariana Franklin: Mistress of the Art of Death

The year is 1170. Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar is a young doctor who studied in Salerno in Italy, one of the few places in the world where, in that time, women were allowed to study. One of her skills, apart from healing people, is deducting the cause of a person's death from the condition of the body. For this reason, she is ordered to travel to England. Several children have been murdered cruelly in Cambridge, and the townsfolk think the Jews did it. King Henry II, however, wants the the real culprit to be found, since he needs the Jews as taxpayers and creditors. Adelia and her colleagues, a Jew and an Arab, are met with distrust by most townsfolk and church officials, but slowly they find more and more clues as to what happened to the murdered children. But the killer knows that Adelia, her colleagues, and the new friends they have made in Cambridge are after him, and starts to attack them...

I really liked this book. The mystery is suspenseful and its solution plausible. The characters, as far as I can tell, are portrayed realistically. Some of them are likable, some of them aren't, but none of them are flat; each of them has good and bad traits, preferences and aversions. This is very important to make fictional characters interesting! However, I don't understand Adelia very well at all. She's very empathic about what happened to the murdered children and their relatives; but she's astonishingly unperturbed by what happens to herself. Consider this: Adelia is a young woman forced to leave her beloved foster parents to travel to England. This is a very dangerous journey and takes not weeks, but months. On the way to England, her best friend dies. When she arrives, hardly anyone thinks that she, as a woman, could do anything useful beyond cooking food and bearing children. Then she falls in love with a good man, but...well, it would be a spoiler to say more about this last topic. Anyway, at the end of the book, King Henry forces Adelia to stay in England, and she accepts it with hardly more than an indifferent shrug of her shoulders. In her place, I would have screamed and shouted and tried to flee! Still, this is a "good" book (Grade B)