Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Death Maze by Ariana Franklin


aka The Serpent’s Tale

published 2008


Death Maze
 


The glow of the taper fell on a bed against the northerly wall. Exquisite white lace swept from a gilded rondel in the ceiling to part over pillows and fall on either side of a gold-tasselled coverlet. It was a high and magnificent bed, with a tiny, ivory set of steps places so that its owner might be assisted to reach it.

Nobody was in it.

Its owner was sitting at a writing table opposite, facing a window, a pen in her hand.

Adelia, her taper now vibrating a little, saw the glancing facets of a jewelled crown and ash-blonde hair curling from it down the writer’s back…

She took off her glove to touch the figure’s unexpectedly large shoulder… She saw a white, white hand, its plump wrist braceleted with skin, like a baby’s. Thumb and forefinger were supporting a goose quill.
 
 
 
Death Maze 2


observations: I’ve only just discovered Ariana Franklin – see the recent blogpost on Mistress of the Art of Death here – and despite having a pile of other books to read I rushed on to the next in the series, which I also very much enjoyed. The story of Rosamond Clifford, mistress to Henry II, is an extraordinary one – very very little is known for certain about her, and much mystery surrounds her death, so the ideal subject for a historical crime novel.

The first part of the book is terrifying and creepy, describing a trip across England in a fierce snowstorm to reach the tower where Rosamund lives. The journey is a tour de force of weather description, atmosphere, relationships and violence. The group do not know what they will find (though Adelia fears the worst) and even when they reach the tower their troubles are not over.
 
SLIGHT SPOILER
 
Rosamund is dead, and the circumstances of both her death and what happened to the corpse are feverishly weird. Did Eleanor of Aquitaine – legitimate wife to Henry II – kill her, and is the country going to be plunged back into the civil war that nearly destroyed it some years before?

Adelia tries to solve the crime, while she and her party and most of the local villagers are trapped in a convent blockaded in by snow.

There were the same problems with this book as the previous one – unlikely attitudes, and playing fast and loose with some aspects of history. But: I just enjoyed it, hugely, it was a compulsive page-turner, and I like reading about the relationship between Adelia and Rowley.

Franklin’s contention that the Fair Rosamund (famously beautiful) was fat is fascinating: it was a nice startling moment, though there is no indication where the author got that from.

I ripped through this one, and will most certainly be going on to the 3rd book in the series.

Henry II and Eleanor featured in previous blog entries.

The pictures are 19th and 20th Century versions of the Fair Rosamund: one by Arthur Hughes, one by John William Waterhouse.























16 comments:

  1. Isn't this a great series, Moira? As you say, some of the attitudes are anachronistic, but somehow Franklin made it work. And you're quite right about her ability to describe the weather and some of the other odds that Adelia faces. I also quite like Adelia as a character.

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    1. Yes to all that! It's rare for me to scoop up the next of a series so quickly - a sign of how much I like Adelia.

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  2. Moira, the only way I'll read certain kinds of books, like historical fiction, is in paper form and that's not going to happen soon, not till I read the ones in my pile. It's almost six months since I last bought a physical book. Talk of will power.

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    1. Gosh Prashant, I am really impressed by your restraint! I share your feeling about historical fiction - I love my Kindle, but a book like this I want to read in a nice fat paperback.

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  3. You are moving ahead on this series. I am sure I will someday, when the mood strikes. I think I have all of them, just got stalled after the first one.

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    1. I wasn't intending to move on so quickly, but the subject matter of this one appealed to me a lot. I love the idea of the maze - and also can't understand why you would change the title from The Death Maze to The Serpent's Tale. To me the first of those is so much more enticing....

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  4. I think the first picture told me it wasn't my kind of book, reading on just confirmed it. Enjoy away Moira....

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    1. Yup, you can safely leave these ones out while I move on to the 3rd and 4th in the series...

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  5. I'm glad you liked this book. I didn't like it as much as the first one. I'll look for your review of book III.

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    1. It wasn't the joyous pleasure that the first one was (partly that was the surprise - I hadn't expected to like it so much) but I was truly fascinated and riveted by the subject matter. So who knows what I'll think of Book 3....

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  6. Moira: I liked this book better than the first in the series. I was surprised by Adelia having a baby. It did not seem plausible.

    On the other hand the author convinced me there are real winter storms in England. I can verify the credibility on snow. I thought I was reading about a good old Saskatchewan blizzard!

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    1. I lived at one time in the area where she lived, and it is undoubtedly the coldest and snowiest part of England that I know of! I'm impressed that it reminded you of your own climate...
      I am looking forward to going on to book 3

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  7. Even women coroners in 12th century England had passionate love affairs, thus resulting in babies. I'm sure that family planning methods were not necessarily available or effective at that point in time. Many people then didn't know what caused pregnancies, though a doctor would know.

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    1. I wonder if Bill meant that it was surprising that she could get away with it, and still have the respect of local people...?

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  8. Maybe a lot of women had children "out of wedlock," as the phrase used to be, and it was a common thing, birth control not being available, successful, etc.

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    1. I'm sure it was not uncommon, but I think it might be hard for a woman to keep her respectability in that era....

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