Franklin, Ariana - 'The Assassin's Prayer'
Henry II, King of England is sending the ten-year-old Princess Joanna on the long journey to Sicily to marry its King, William II. He insists that Adelia Aguilar, the one doctor he can trust, accompanies her to Palermo. Henry will keep Adelia's daughter, by her lover Rowley, Bishop of St Albans, back in England as a guarantee she will return. Adelia Aguilar is a graduate of the famed School of Medicine in Salerno, a mistress in the art of death, who has solved murders in the county of Cambridge and now is kept by Henry Plantagenet as his special investigator.
The party is also entrusted with King Arthur's sword Excalibur, found by Adelia at Glastonbury in the previous book RELICS OF THE DEAD, which is to be given as a gift to King William. But there is a crazed killer accompanying them on their journey who has both financial and personal reasons for wishing Adelia ill.
The problem with the major players in this series is that in England they face severe restrictions, Rowley as a churchman, Mansur as an Arab, and Adelia as a woman. Ariana Franklin was faced with the problem that occurs in any long running crime series of where this series was going. She wisely decided to send it on a difficult journey to Sicily.
The start is slightly slow, but once we are taken across the channel, and the passages of italicized thoughts of the assassin are reduced in length, the pace and the interest picks up considerably. As we go further south I was intrigued and educated as the story involved the Cathars, the isolated Catalan communities in the Pyrenees, and some exciting new characters such as the beautiful Fabrisse, Dowager Countess of Caronne, and the "pirate" O'Donnell.
The exciting denouement at the wedding in Palermo is tinged with sadness, and we are left with a nice little cliffhanger.
The sadness was that the golden age when "Sicily was the most liberal, forward thinking realm in Christendom, treating its Arabs, Greeks, Jews and Normans as equal citizens" was coming to an end:"It is grief for me to tell you, my child, but you would not be allowed to study in Salerno's school now."
Adelia turned to stare at him. "No women."
"No women. No autopsy, either……………How can we mend the human body if we do not how it works?"
THE ASSASSIN'S PRAYER after a slightly faltering start kept me turning the pages intently, and is a fine addition to this accomplished series. This is the fourth historical thriller featuring Adelia Aguilar. The first, MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH won the 2007 CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award and Ariana Franklin has just received the CWA Dagger in the Library Award.
Read another review of THE ASSASSIN'S PRAYER.
Norman Price, England