Ariana Franklin combines the best of modern forensic
thrillers with the drama of historical fiction in the enthralling second novel
in the Mistress of the Art of Death series, featuring medieval heroine
Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of King Henry II, has died an agonizing death by
poison - and the king's estranged queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is the prime
suspect. Henry suspects that Rosamund's murder is probably the first move in
Eleanor's long-simmering plot to overthrow him. If Eleanor is guilty, the result
could be civil war. The king must once again summon Adelia Aguilar, mistress of
the art of death, to uncover the truth.
Adelia is not happy to be called out of retirement. She has been living
contentedly in the countryside, caring for her infant daughter, Allie. But
Henry's summons cannot be ignored, and Adelia must again join forces with the
king's trusted fixer, Rowley Picot, the Bishop of St. Albans, who is also her
Adelia and Rowley travel to the murdered courtesan's home, in a tower within a
walled labyrinth - a strange and sinister place from the outside, but far more
so on the inside, where a bizarre and gruesome discovery awaits them. But
Adelia's investigation is cut short by the appearance of Rosamund's rival: Queen
Eleanor. Adelia, Rowley, and the other members of her small party are taken
captive by Eleanor's henchmen and held in the nunnery of Godstow, where Eleanor
is holed up for the winter with her band of mercenaries, awaiting the right
moment to launch their rebellion.
Isolated and trapped inside the nunnery by the snow and cold, Adelia and Rowley
watch as dead bodies begin piling up. Adelia knows that there may be more than
one killer at work, and she must unveil their true identities before England is
once again plunged into civil war . . .
The events of this novel involve historical personages including Henry Plantagenet, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry's mistress Rosamund Clifford, and others. Adelia is an independent, courageous, and mentally forceful woman, and her insertion into this tapestry of the Middle Ages at times seems a bit of a stretch. Some will quibble that Franklin's writing and dialogue slip as often into modern phrasings as into a quaint East Anglican brogue. The sentence structures can be difficult to follow, and the writing tone doesn't always align with the 12th-century setting of the novel. However, these things being said, The Serpent's Tale is a fun and engaging fiction set in an interesting and tumultuous period of English history that has received much less literary attention than the overdone Tudor period. Visiting this unfamiliar era, and then following research trails afterward, rewarded me with many new facts and background histories. This book should appeal to those who enjoy strong female characters, medically-based crime solving, or British mysteries and intrigues. (Reviewed by Kathy Pierson).
A colorful cast of characters, both good and evil, enhance a tale that will keep readers on edge until the final page.
The careful clinician of the first book has become a passionate woman and worried mother, exoticism and novelty traded for a greater range of emotion. A warm, promising continuation of the series.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Gloria The Serpent's Tale I fell in love with the characters when I read "The Mistress of the art of Death" , they are believable, funny, with all the human failings one could possibly have. The story lines are engaging and I spent a couple sleepless nights... Read More
Rated of 5
by joey unremarkable The story is somewhat predictable.
Rated of 5
by Kim So-So mystery I absolutely LOVED Ariana Franklin's first book in this series, "Mistress in the Art of Death," and couldn't wait to read "Serpent's Tale." Unfortunately, Franklin's second book is just kind of average. It dithers around a lot without moving... Read More
The Serpent's Tale is set during a richly interesting time in English history
(approximately the same time period as Ken Follet's
The Pillars of the Earth and Ellis Peters's Cadfael novels, which
many may know best through the 1990s TV series starring Derek Jacobi). Through Adelia's
all-access pass to Henry II, readers hear tell of ongoing political intrigues
and scheming power plays. Threads of these histories can become tangled
quickly; so, a cursory overview of royal lineage and a simplified path of the
English crown may prove helpful in illuminating some the historical events that
form the backdrop to The Serpent's Tale.
A Plantagenet Primer
(1133-1189), the first Plantagenet* king, was born and brought up in France but lived
to rule England for 35 years. His name will always be tied obliquely to the
murder of Archbishop Thomas à Becket at Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, even
though he's often lauded as one of the most effective of all England's
Spring, 1543. When an old friend is horrifically murdered, Shardlake promises his widow to bring the killer to justice. His search leads him to both Archbishop Cranmer and Catherine Parr whom King Henry VIII is wooing to become his sixth wife - and the dark prophecies of the Book of Revelation.
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