(The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Murder, mayhem, rebellion and forbidden romance clash in medieval England, dragging the clear-eyed, analytical Adelia Aguilar into their midst. Adelia is what we would call a forensic doctor, trained in Salerno, and her every move is complicated by the fact that -in England - women have no medical knowledge and virtually no rights.
This storyline is a powerful river, sweeping everything along in its wake. It is Adelia's sharp curiosity that keeps form in the narrative, propelling forward in mind even when circumstances prevent her from directly confronting the mystery at hand. The period details are stellar and (usually) seamlessly integrated into the narrative. Her push-me-pull-you relationship with Rowley is compelling, and not your typical romance subplot.
To some extent, the other elements overcome the mystery in this book: there was a place at which I felt that the mystery was kind of besides the point. But then a final surprise brought me back to the mystery storyline. Recommended.
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(No, this is not spec-fic, but it's in a period which inspires a lot of fantasy work, and it's a great read for history and/or mystery fans.)