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The Death Maze
(US Title: The Serpent's Tale)
Doctor to the Dead series #2

by Ariana Franklin
(aka Diana Norman)

      Last year Mistress of the Art of Death (also reviewed on this site) marked the beginning of this absorbing new series about Adelia Aguilar, Sicilian doctor and forensic specialist. Still living in the Fens with Mansur, Gyltha, Ulf and her new baby, Allie, Adelia has almost resigned herself to the King wanting her to stay in Britain to solve crimes. But her old lover, Rowley, now the bishop of St Albans, comes to her requesting she use her knowledge to discover who has poisoned Fair Rosamund, the kingís mistress. So Adelia and her household leave their home and go to Oxfordshire in the depths of a very cold winter to find Rosamundís corpse in a tower in the middle of a maze. Queen Eleanor has escaped from captivity and wants to raise an army against the king. It could be Stephen versus Matilda again if Adelia cannot discover that the Queen was not guilty of hiring an assassin.

Ariana Franklin (aka Diana Norman) has a lively style that makes this strange tale a compulsive read. I particularly enjoyed the description of the company traversing the icy maze to Wormhold Tower, just like a scene from a Grimmís fairy tale. If you are a fantasy fan you will find much to enjoy in here, as there is an otherworldly feel about the restless company of mercenaries holed up with nuns at Godstow, celebrating a pagan Yuletide. This is a tale, too, about the lot of women, and very much a story for women. History has been stretched here, and rather thinly in places, to give a good story a peg to hang on, but treat it as a yarn (the sort to read by a crackling fire with the snow falling outside perhaps) and you will enjoy it so much more.

The Book

Bantam Press (Transworld UK)
5 May 2008
0593056507 / 9780593056509
Historical Mystery / 1172 / Oxfordshire, England
More at US || UK
NOTE: Some violence

The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2008
© 2008