It’s time for SBD again…and I have something to talk about! It feels like ages since that’s happened!
Okay, first, I must say that the reading slump is on-going. Very little appeals. I’ve finished two books — two! — in the last two weeks. That’s terrible! Normally, it’s two or three a week. I shouldn’t complain, I guess, since reading fewer books means buying fewer books, which is always better for my budget. More for the vacation fund.
Finally finished the fourth mystery in the Adelia Aguilar series by Ariana Franklin, A Murderous Procession.
In 1176, King Henry II sends his ten-year-old daughter, Joanna, to Palermo to marry William II of Sicily. War on the Continent and outbreaks of plague make it an especially dangerous journey, so the king selects as his daughter’s companion the woman he trust most: Adelia Aguilar, his mistress of the art of death. As a medical doctor and native of Sicily, it will be Adelia’s job to travel with the princess and safeguard her health until the wedding.
Adelia wants to refuse – accompanying the royal procession means leaving behind her nine-year old daughter. Unfortunately, Henry has arranged for the girl to live at court, both as a royal ward and as a hostage to ensure that Adelia will return to the king’s service. So Adelia sets off for a yearlong royal procession. Accompanying her on the journey are her Arab companion, Mansur, her lover, Rowley, and an unusual newcomer: the Irish sea captain O’Donnell, who may prove more useful to Adelia than Rowley would like.
But another man has joined the procession – a murderer bent on the worst kind of revenge. When people in the princess’s household begin to die, Adelia and Rowley suspect that the killer is hiding in plain sight. Is his intended victim the princess . . . or Adelia herself?
I pre-ordered this book and it arrived on the release date. Sadly, it has taken me more than a month to read it. It’s not badly written or completely out of the normal style or voice established in the first three Adelia Aguilar books. It just…didn’t compel me to turn the pages consistently. It felt kind of episodic, starting and stopping in dribs and drabs, with the things happening in Aveyron not really mattering much to things that happened in Caen. Yes, yes, politically connected, but just not well-strung together. And, to be honest, a lot of the plot felt repetitive. Adelia and Rowley disagree because he withholds information and/or puts kingly duty above their relationship. She gives him the cold shoulder, but then regrets it when she learns the whys and wherefores. Separation followed by rescue at the last minute. Where have we read that before? Oh, right, in the earlier books of the series.
I think also, Adelia’s devotion to pure truth coupled with her brush-off of reality is beginning to frustrate me. Her precarious situation has been made clear in books past, between accusations of witch craft, her social situation being outside the nobility and the peasantry, and the physical threats and injuries she’s suffered. Her obstinate refusal to consider her own personal safety begins to feel a little blinkered and martyrish, verging on TSTL.
As usual, the blurb both reveals and misleads. Adelia’s daughter is not nine years old: the first book was set in 1171 and she wasn’t even conceived yet – how could she possibly be nine in 1176? Also, the blurb implies that Adelia and Rowley work together to solve this mystery, which is not really the case. They spend the majority of the book separated, and while he suspects something, Adelia has her head buried in the sand about the possibility of someone seeking revenge against her.
The POV of the Big Bad…eh. It felt like too much. Knowing after the last book that he was still around was creepy, but the POV crossed out of creepy and into deranged to the point that I found it hard to believe no one noticed his psychosis. There may not have been psychiatrists in the 12th century, but certainly there was crazy back then, and people would notice, no?
This sounds like I hated the book, but I didn’t – I finished it, after all, and I don’t begrudge paying the hardback price for it. The book is different from a lot of the current mystery offerings, a medieval forensic mystery, set in a locale that I find fascinating. I suppose it just feels not different enough from the first three books of the series.
One other reason I enjoy this series is the periodic cameo by Henry II. His unfortunate relationship with the Catholic Church and the murder of Thomas Becket aside, he was an amazing character, the father of English Common Law. I may need to go watch The Lion in Winter, or maybe dig out some of Jean Plaidy’s Plantagenet books.