Sometimes the best books are the ones we stumble upon. Yesterday I stumbled upon Ariana Franklin's Grave Goods in a bookstore. I enjoy historical murder mysteries and this one, like the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, is set in Medieval England. What really caught my interest was that it was set in Glastonbury, long thought to be Avalon of the King Arthur legend and site of his burial. I carried the book with me into a restaurant and while waiting to be served, opened it up and read the first chapter. "This is a good one," I told my husband.
Later that evening, I sat at my computer watching the Twitter feed roll by, but kept getting pulled back into A.D. 1176 England and the story of Adelia, a young woman trained as a doctor in Salermo, Italy. I finally immersed myself in the story, and didn't stop reading until I turned the last page at 2 a.m.
This being the third book of the series, I had missed much of the setup that had led to Amelia living in England and occasionally being called into service as a coroner by King Henry II, he who made a martyr and saint of Thomas Becket, but also brought common law to England. Enough of the prior history was woven into the story that I had no trouble getting up to speed. It's a fascinating period of history, but the author manages to include the history in the story without the history becoming the story.
In this story, Adelia, who is fleeing her home of four years to avoid being tried for witchcraft, is sent to investigate the unearthing of a casket in Glastonbury, which may or may not contain the remains of King Arthur and Guinevere. In the course of her investigation, she uncovers a twenty-year-old murder, searches for lost friends, and possibly discovers many truths about King Arthur.
I found Adelia to be very likable, more knowledgeable about science and anatomy than Cadfael, who would have loved her, and less rigid than Sister Fidelma, whom I also love, but is a lawyer, and therefore pontificates a lot. Adelia has to be careful, since most would view her medical activities as heretical, but she's feisty, independent and determined, and King Henry II, whom she would prefer to avoid, has learned that she is also a valuable agent, who can be counted on to unravel any mystery and tell him the truth of it, even if it's a truth, he'd rather not hear.
I couldn't put this one down, so I'll be going back to read the first two books in the series: Mistress of the Art of Death and The Serpent's Tale, and look forward to the next one A Murderous Procession, which just went on sale April 1.
Click on the title to this post to visit the author's website.