In The Serpent’s Tale our favorite doctor of the dead, Adelia Aguilar, is once again called into service by King Henry II of England. His beloved mistress Rosamund Clifford has been poisoned and all suspicions are on Queen Eleanor his estranged wife. Adelia is called to examine Rosamund’s body and try to find out who was really behind her murder. At this time Adelia is living with her friends Gyltha and Mansur and her daughter whom was produced from her previous love affair with Sir Rowley who is now the Bishop of Saint Albans. She re-unites with Rowley and encounters several obstacles in accomplishing her task-the first being the Serpent like maze that surrounds the tower in which Rosamund lived. Her mad servant Dakers is protecting the body of her mistress and will not let anyone near. Adelia finally gains access and discovers the bloated corpse of Rosamund surrounds by letters supposedly written by Rosamund proclaiming herself the true queen of England. While on the scene Queen Eleanor herself shows up to gaze upon her dead enemy. She decides the whole tower will be burned with Rosamund in it rather than allow her a Christian burial. Eleanor is trying to raise an army and defeat Henry which she plans to accomplish by taking Oxford. She forces everyone to depart down the freezing river for their destination but is forced to stop at Godstow Abbey which they take over. While there a series of other murders occur and Adelia must solve those and figure out if they are related to the death of Rosamund Clifford or something else. She must do all this while pretending to be Mansur’s assistant since women are not allowed to practice medicine and being treated like she is next to nothing which is how females of the time were treated.
It took me awhile longer to get into this one than it did Mistress of the Art of Death. The book didn’t really capture my interest until they got to Godstow Abbey, met the spunky Abbess, and the other murders started occurring. It was interesting to see Adelia as a mother and having to deal with protecting her child and solving the murders. As with Mistress, Franklin produces several likely suspects for the murders which leaves you guessing who the culprit(s) were until the end. I like that I’m not able to figure out the ending half way through the book like I have with some novels I’ve read. I would like to read a different perspective on Rosamund Clifford other than the one presented in this book. Here she is the fat deceased, sometimes cruel to her servants Mistress of Henry II with delusions of grandeur. I’ll be interested to see how else she called to serve Henry in the 3rd installment Grave Goods.