Book Review: Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin

I haven’t been posting as often because I’m in the throes of the first trimester yuckies (the technical medical term). And while I’m thrilled to be pregnant again, it’s certainly not doing great things for my writing at the moment.

However, book group continues to provide me with some intellectual stimulation.  Left to my own devices, I’d curl up with some brainless bestseller and kill time until the nausea abates. (And now you know what reviews you can expect next.)

We read Grave Goods because our group recognized a lack of mystery titles in our repertoire.  I’m not much of a mystery person.  I feel that they’re often too formulaic with less of the focus on character development than I’d prefer. But I was pleasantly surprised by this one that challenged the typical mystery conventions and crept into the historical fiction genre a bit.

I don’t recommend starting a series with the third book, but that’s what we did. The author did an admirable job of catching us up on important details, but I felt that all that backstory was a bit rushed.  I will gladly seek out the first two books to see what I missed, but I can’t comment on them, since I’ve only read this one.

The story is set in England in the 12th century, which is enough, right there, to pique my interest.    The main character’s name is Adelia Ailar, Mistress of the Art of Death (quite the title).  She serves as King Henry II’s forensics expert, in a day long before CSI: Miami. It’s a bit of a stretch of the imagination to expect a woman in the dark ages to do any authoritative kind of medical examination, but as with many elements of the story, it’s best to suspend doubt and enjoy the ride.

Adelia was trained as a doctor in Salerno, Italy.  She travels with a motley crew, most importantly including Mansur, an Arab attendant who poses as the actual doctor (and her as the translator) to appeal more to back water dark ages types who don’t see many woman doctors.  It’s a clever ruse but seems pretty thin most of the time. Also along for the ride is Adelia’s illegitimate daughter and her nursemaid.

This particular quest is focused on whether or not recently uncovered bones belong to the famed King Arthur and Guinevere.  King Henry commissions Adelia to find out for sure.

The attitudes presented in the story are astoundingly modern, earning guffaws from me at several points in the book.  But once more, the suspension of disbelief comes in handy.

If you’re not much on mystery but like a good historical romp, especially one involving Arthurian legend, then this is a good book for you. But if you have a hard time stomaching feminism and liberalism forced into a Dark Ages setting, I’d look elsewhere for a fun read.

If you’re considering purchasing this book as a result of this review, please consider using my link to Amazon, so I get referral credits to purchase more books to review.

Published in: on November 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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