The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Adelia Aguilar, a doctor trained in the medical schools of Salerno, Italy, is learning to enjoy her new life in the fens of medieval England when she receives a summons from the Bishop of St. Albans, her former lover and the father of her infant daughter. King Henry II's mistress has been murdered, and Adelia's services are required to investigate and discover who poisoned Rosamund. Queen Eleanor is being blamed for her death, and their respective allies are on the brink of another civil war. On the way to Godstow Abbey, the bishop's traveling party stumbles across the body of a young man, and suddenly Adelia has not one but two murders to solve. Her efforts at solving the crimes are hampered by weather, quarreling soldiers, and the presence of one or more killers in their midst. As bodies pile up and food supplies dwindle, Adelia struggles to uncover the truth before she or someone she loves becomes the next victim.
I think I loved book two in this series even more than book one. For one thing, Ms. Franklin skipped the odd Greek chorus opening and closing in this one. For another, I already knew the main protagonists, so I was able to dive in to the world of twelfth century England much faster. And the story moved right along so that it was very difficult to put the book down at the end of my lunch breaks.
The language was much...saltier...this time around. Perhaps because there were more mercenary soldiers speaking? Then again, even the supposedly religious men frequently peppered their language with swearing. It is, after all, barely more than a century after the Norman Conquest demoted Anglo-Saxon (i.e. Old English) to be the dialect of the lower classes and categorized it as coarse.
I very much appreciated the author's note at the end, giving some historical context and background. Ms. Franklin managed to fit this story into one of the convenient gaps in the medieval records. After reading this novel, I'm curious about the real lives of Henry and Eleanor and may need to go locate a couple of biographies on the pair.
For readers' advisors: story, character, and setting doorways are all strong. There are some brief moments of sexual innuendo and one sex scene with virtually no details. And, of course, there is a fair amount of use of the ordinary Anglo-Saxon terms for things (what we now think of as swear words).
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