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Literature / Mistress of the Art of Death

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The Mistress of the Art of Death is the first in a series of four historical mysteries by (sadly now deceased) British author Diana Norman, writing under the pen name Ariana Franklin. The series follows Adelia Aguilar, a medica and forensic scientist ("doctor to the dead") of Salerno, Sicily, when she is summoned to England to investigate the deaths of four Cambridge children. The four books in the series are The Mistress of the Art of Death, The Serpent's Tale (The Death Maze in England), Grave Goods (Relics of the Dead in England), and A Murderous Procession (also published as The Assassin's Prayer).



  • Adult Fear: The murderer in The Serpent's Tale preys on Adelia's love for her child by breaking into her room, stealing her baby, and balancing said baby in her basket at the top of some stone steps for Adelia to find.
  • Affably Evil: A number of the villains, most notably Jacques in The Serpent's Tale.
  • Beta Couple: Gyltha and Mansur.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: All the men on the pilgrimage are initially suspects to have murdered the children in The Mistress of the Art of Death (Adelia rules out the women, which turns out to have been a poor choice.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Excalibur in A Murderous Procession.
  • Historical-Domain Character: tons, given this is historical fiction. A few examples are King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Princess Joanna, Fair Rosamund Clifford, the Abbot of Eynsham...
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  • Never Suicide: Bertha in The Serpent's Tale and Brune in A Murderous Procession.
  • Oblivious to Love: Adelia to O'Donnell in A Murderous Procession.
  • Overly Long Name: Adelia's full name is Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar.
  • Perfect Poison: The death cap mushrooms that kill Rosamund in The Serpent's Tale are mixed in with so many different kinds of harmless mushrooms that it's impossible to tell where they came from.
    • Also, one of the effects of the mushrooms' poison is that the victim appears to get better for a time, meaning it is both slow- and fast-acting poison.
  • Red Herring: especially Mistress of the Art of Death and A Murderous Procession.
  • No Social Skills: Adelia lacks not only a well-born woman's graces, but also basic skills of interaction.


Example of: