The Serpent’s Tale
Putnam, Jan 2008, $25.95, 354 pp.
Henry II is King of England and is estranged from his wife queen Eleanor, who he has imprisoned for fear she and their sons will try to overthrow him. The king’s mistress Rosamund Clifford gives him much pleasure; so when she is poisoned by mushrooms, The Bishop of St. Albans Rowley Picot goes to Cambridgeshire to fetch Adelia Aguilar so that she can investigate and find out who killed her. Adelia is forced to stay in England because she is a doctor having studied at the School of Medicine at Salerno.
The bishop says that it is the king’s order that she investigate the murder and find out if Eleanor, who escaped her prison, had anything to do with the murder when they arrive at Rosamund’s home. Adelia finds evidence that someone is trying to frame Eleanor for the death of her husband’s mistress. Adelia saves the queen’s life when she suddenly appears but also learns that Eleanor is at the center of the plot to overthrow the king. The bishop wants Rosamund’s murder solved and Eleanor exonerated because the country can’t go through another civil war. The one woman who could have shed some light on the identity of the killer was murdered and her death made to look like a suicide. Trapped in the nunnery of Godstow with the queen, Adelia continues her investigation certain that at least one killer is somewhere with Eleanor and her entourage.
Fans who love the historical mysteries of Sharon Kay Penman are going to thoroughly enjoy THE SERPENT’S TALE, a strong whodunit with a deep glimpse into a bygone era. The protagonist wishes to go home where she has some rights though she is unhappy that she is not allowed to overtly practice medicine; instead she and her Arab friend pretend he is the doctor and she his assistant following his instructions. She is a bright intelligent woman who uses her knowledge to conduct a thorough investigation. Ariana Franklin is a gifted storyteller who provides historical fiction mystery fans with an exciting who-done-it. This tale is also targeted for historical fiction lovers who will thoroughly enjoy this unputdownable tale.