Monday, March 23, 2009

Review: The Serpent's Tale

The Serpent's Tale is Ariana Franklin's second novel about medieval medical examiner Adelia Aguilar. (Warning: this review contains a spoiler for Mistress of the Art of Death.)

After King Henry II's mistress Rosamund Clifford is poisoned and suspicion naturally falls on the queen, Eleanor of Aquitane, Adelia is called in to find out who really killed Rosamund. She is summoned, not by Henry*, but by Henry's loyal "fixer" Rowley Picot, the new Bishop of St. Albans, who also happens to be father to Adelia's daughter, Allie. After a macabre visit to Rosamund's isolated tower, Adelia and her entourage are kept trapped at Godstow convent with rebellious Queen Eleanor, and as the body count begins to rise, they quickly realize that the murderer must be there as well and that Adelia better figure out who it is before she and Allie are the next targets.

This is an engaging book - part thriller, murder mystery and historical fiction, the drama keeps the book moving at a quick pace and the well-rounded characters are all fascinating portraits. My only quibble with the book was that there was much less of the process and insight into Adelia's thinking that kept me riveted in Mistress of the Art of Death (see my review here). But Serpent's Tale stands on its own well and makes me look forward to the next book in the series, Grave Goods.

Buy The Serpent's Tale on Amazon.
Visit author Ariana Franklin online.

*Annoyingly, even the product description on the publisher's own website gets this wrong, even though it's a big plot point. Do copywriters actually read the books they are supposed to be summarizing? Yes, Henry wants Adelia on the case, but before that, it is Rowley's idea to bring her in, before he even tells the king that Rosamund is dead. *headdesk*

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