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Death and the Maiden


Death and the Maiden

The world lost a great author with the passing of Diana Norman, aka Ariana Franklin, in 2011. She wrote mostly historical fiction and mysteries, but her greatest success was the Mistress of the Art of Death series, the final entry of which is DEATH AND THE MAIDEN. Franklin's daughter, Samantha Norman, appropriately has dedicated this book to Franklin: “This is for my mum.” It is most ironic and moving that the principal character in all of the prior installments takes a backseat here as the majority of the action is led by her daughter.

DEATH AND THE MAIDEN is set in the year 1191 in England during the time of King Henry II. Penda, an old friend of the Aguilar family, travels from the Fens to Wolvercote where the Aguilars reside to request that Adelia return with her to help her gravely ill sister, Gyltha. With Adelia on the shelf due to an ankle injury that has left her hobbled, her daughter Allie goes in her place.

"DEATH AND THE MAIDEN is truly a love letter from Samantha Norman to her late mother and bears most of the trademark elements that helped make an Ariana Franklin novel so memorable."

Upon arrival, Allie meets Hawise, who says that her friend Martha is just the latest in a series of young women who have gone missing only to turn up days later as apparent drowning victims. Allie is more than eager to share her mother's sidebar love of mystery-solving during her visit, and this sounds like just the sort of thing for her. Thankfully, Adelia has passed on much of what she knows to Allie as she has attempted to groom her for a career in the medical profession. Martha's body turns up shortly thereafter, giving Allie an opportunity to examine the corpse.

Allie has always found it difficult to deal with corpses, but words of wisdom from her mother get her through it: “Never look at a corpse and see the body of a person; see the cadaver of a pig.” She also reflects on another piece of advice that can assist in her investigation: “Use your eyes, Allie. See the wider picture first in case you miss something important.” Fortunately, letters from Adelia arrive that provide additional support. In one of these notes, she promises to travel there as soon as possible so she can help Allie in person.

Things take a far more personal turn when Hawise goes missing and is feared to be the next victim of the killer who has been terrorizing the area. Adelia eventually does arrive in the last act of the story, and her assistance allows Allie to focus more on the problem at hand and hopefully will let her do whatever it takes to find Hawise before she turns up dead. Additionally, Allie’s father, Rowley, appears and sheds some light on one of the clues in the case. Each body is found with D.V. carved into the flesh. It is assumed that these are the initials of the murderer, but Rowley indicates that it stands for Deus vult, a Latin phrase used as an old Crusader's cry that means “God wills it.” At the very least, this information may help narrow the field of suspects.

DEATH AND THE MAIDEN is truly a love letter from Samantha Norman to her late mother and bears most of the trademark elements that helped make an Ariana Franklin novel so memorable. The atmosphere of the time period is spot-on, and the mystery infused within it is worthy of the others in this stand-out series.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 30, 2020

Death and the Maiden
by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman