Mistress of the Art of Death is the first in a series of four medieval mystery novels about that rarest of creatures, a medieval woman doctor. Trained at the University of Salerno, Italy, Adelia finds herself on a mission in Henry II’s England, where the Jewish community in the town of Cambridge is suspected of being behind a series of child murders. Adelia is a forensic expert, a “mistress of the art of death,” but she has to conceal her knowledge and pretend to be only an aide and translator to her Moorish servant, who masquerades as the real doctor, since no-one in twelfth-century England can wrap their heads around a woman physician.
The research into the time period is well done and feels authentic, though Adelia is perhaps a little too much of a “woman ahead of her time” to be entirely believable. Her story is continued in three further books, of which I read the next one, The Serpent’s Tale. I enjoyed both books, but wasn’t so engrossed that I felt I had to go on and read the rest, though I probably will do so eventually, when I feel like travelling back to the 1100s again.