Earlier this year, I read The Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin for book club. It was such an engrossing mystery that I knew I would want to read the rest of the series. I finally had a chance this month to read the second book, The Serpent's Tale and it was almost as fun. I'm not usually a mystery reader, but these books I really like. The Serpent's Tale follows Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, or Adelia as we know her, on another mission to discover a murderer. This time the murder victim is Fair Rosamund, the King's mistress. If Adelia fails to expose the true killer, the King will blame the Queen, whom he suspects of raising a rebellion against him, and a war will begin, endangering thousands of lives.
Making things more complicated for Adelia is that she is now a mother. Gyltha is still there to care for Adelia and her infant daughter, but Adelia wonders if these investigations are worth the risk to her child. One of my favorite lines, spoken by the child's father: "Any fool can have a son....It takes a man to conceive a daughter." In a world where women are blamed for all sin and evil, here is a man proud to have a daughter.
Another favorite quote: The Bishop of Saint Albans is helping Adelia with her investigation and I love when he says of a suspected pair of murderers, "...and my God have mercy on their souls, for we shall not."
This book is wonderfully written, but this reader got the impression that, while the first book was intended to hook the audience, this book has a slower arc to it. There are four books in the series and it is rumored that more were planned before the author's death in early 2011 at the age of 77. However, this book does contain historical facts bent to the will of a creative novelist, forbidden love, yearning for power, and all of the mystery a fan of the first tale has come to expect. I look forward to reading the other two novels and I'm sure I will love them as well.