Grave Goods

Grave Goods; Ariana Franklin, Berkeley Books, 2009

 “So, what are you reading?”

“I just finished Grave Goods, a history mystery, by Ariana Franklin.”

“Never heard of her.”

“It’s a pen name for a British writer named Diana Norman. She’s a journalist and a historian. The books are set in the twelfth century. I found six pieces! Is that part of her hand, coming out of the water?”

“I thought we agreed to do all the corners first.”

“No, we didn’t agree to that. You decided that. Look! That’s the shoreline, that piece goes right here. Anyway, her detective, Adelia Aguilera, is an Italian woman who was trained as a doctor in Salerno.”

“They didn’t have women doctors back then!”

“Not in England they sure didn’t. King Henry II uses her as his forensic expert, a coroner. Adelia travels with an Arabic eunuch and everyone pretends that he’s the doctor and she is just his translator.”

“Typical. Give the man the credit. Is this the tip of the sword? Look for some more gray pieces, I think it’s the sword.”

“So, in this book, Henry’s found a pair of skeletons at Glastonbury Abbey and he wants Adelia to determine if they’re the remains of Arthur and Guinevere.”

“Can’t they just carbon-date the bones?”

 “Did I mention, twelfth century? Anyway, Adelia and her lover Bishop Rowley—“

“Her lover? Bishop Rowley?”

“Ahhh, well, he wasn’t a bishop when they got together. Or a priest, even. The King appointed him so he’d have someone on his side—“

“On his side? But he’s the—did you say King Henry II?”


“Henry II? ‘Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?’ That Henry II?”

“That’s the one.”

“He was a terrible king! He martyred Thomas Becket, and he locked up his wife for like, forever, and— is that the hilt?”

“This writer thinks that maybe you don’t have the whole story about Henry. And she’s got a big historian-crush on him. And he did good things for Britain, he just lost out to the Catholic propaganda machine.”

“Hmm. We’ll see. Here’s more of her arm. Clothed in white samite. What is samite, anyway?”

“Heavy silk. Adelia could explain it to you.”

“So, is the skeleton Arthur? Never mind, I know it isn’t.”

 “Well. . .”

“Get out!”

“Hey, the monks at Glastonbury Abbey did claim to find Arthur’s bones. And Excalibur, by the way.”

“And a hundred pieces of the True Cross. We’re finding Excalibur—see if that piece fits. So, that’s the story? It’s CSI on Arthur’s bones?”

“No, there’s a mystery, when Adelia’s friend Emma Wolvercote goes missing on the road. And there’s a mystery about the bones she’s investigating, too, because they’ve been mutilated.”

“Ick. Your medieval lady doctor who’s canoodling with the bishop—he’d better watch his back, with that king. So, I should read this?”



 “You should read the first one, Mistress of the Art of Death. It introduces Adelia and gives the set-up, and really shows how infatuated this writer is with Henry II.”

 “So you liked Grave Goods, but you think I should start at the beginning.”

“Yes. I know how you like all the pieces to fit together.”

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2 Responses to Grave Goods

  1. Terry Weyna says:

    Doesn’t THE SERPENT’S TALE come in between MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH and GRAVE GOODS? Please tell me that’s right, because those are the two books I have — no GRAVE GOODS sitting on the shelf (yet).

    These books appeal to me enormously, and one of these days I *will* get around to reading them.

  2. Marion says:

    Yes, SERPENT’S TALE is the second. Franklin is comfortable making medium-sized jumps in time between books–two years or so–but she marks those transitions very well so it’s not disorienting. SERPENT’S TALE has Eleanor of Aquitane in it. Things aren’t going so well for Eleanor at the time.

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