Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Assassin's Prayer

This is the fourth in Ariana Franklin's 12 century mysteries featuring anatomist, doctor and mistress of the art of death Adelia Aguilar. King Henry II has tasked Adelia with watching over the ten year old Princess Joanna on her journey to meet her new husband in Sicily. As ever the best scenes are with the King though in this case they are so short as to hardly be worth mentioning. Likewise, the cameos by the King's sons, including Cœur de Lion himself are too brief to make much of an impression. Franklin seems to be collecting characters too beloved to herself, and to some readers, for her to leave out of the narrative. And there lies the problem. The book is great fun, with lots of the characters that we've all grown used to but the mystery aspect of the book seems to be anemic by comparison. Tracking Adelia is the totally nutso outlaw Scarry, disguised as one of the travelling company and bent on bringing Adelia down before he kills her in revenge of her killing of his outlaw lover from the previous book. Working out this mystery shouldn't be too taxing even for the most amateur of armchair detectives, which considering we don't have the same benefit of having already seen the guy, as Adelia has, begs the question how does it take so long for our heroine to work it out. Barring several pages with the curious incident of the ex-goat in the nighttime there is very little opportunity for Adelia to call on her deathly arts at all. Having several sub-plots but no notable primary plot turns this one into a colourful travelogue rather than a mystery. It's still an enjoyable and easy read, bolstering the already rich ensemble of characters with some new note worthies, like Boggart, the O'Donnell and Rankin - an overly caricatured Scotsman (the peeps, the peeps). The historical aspects of the journey are fascinating, not least the emerging religious and political landscape of the middle ages. Fans of the series will probably be too satisfied to be back in the company of old friends to be concerned with the shortcoming's of the plot.

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