A Murderous Procession by Ariana Franklin
I am a bit of a completionist - once I start a series, I will usually continue to read it unless it becomes completely horrible or repetitive. If I don't love the series, I won't rush out to get the next one, but I'll definitely keep an eye out for any paperback versions. This is the fourth in a series of murder mystery/thrillers that take place during the reign of Henry II, and follows the protagonist Adelia, a female doctor from Sicily that is trained as a forensic examiner/coroner. Her work from the past three novels as gained her the trust of Henry II, so he chooses her to escort his daughter Joanna to Sicily for her wedding. Given the sexism and superstition of the time, Adelia poses as the assistant to her friend and protector Mansur while he pretends to be a doctor. Since he is Muslim, the two of them still have a hard time being accepted into the princess's circle which is dominated by superstitious, racist and sexist church members with comparatively antiquated views of medicine.
The other issue is that the procession is plagued by bad luck and death. First a horse, then a knight, then a laundry woman. All of these creatures die for mysterious and odd reasons, and the only thing they have in common is that they appear to have irritated Adelia at some point or another. Rowley, Adelia's lover, is one of the bishops on this journey and he and Mansur believe that someone is trying to turn everyone against Adelia. Adelia doesn't believe them, even when they tell her of attempts on her life that took place before she left England that had been hidden from her. While I think this is one of the better novels in the series (whether this is the case because it actually is or because I've had a break from the series so it wasn't as repetitive to me), I did get annoyed with how long Adelia decided to live in denial and how long it took for her to realize that something was indeed afoot.
Franklin must have stumbled on some interesting communities during her research since she has Adelia and her friends become separated from everyone else during the trip, which gives her a chance to introduce them to the reader. While some of it was farfetched, I'm not exactly reading these for historical accuracy, so it was a fun read. The novel ended on what could be considered a bit of a cliff hanger (okay, definitely an open ended question), but to me it also seemed like a good way to end the series once I discovered that this was the last one. It leaves the reader to decide what destiny they want for Adelia and Rowley, and where they see things going. Some other things had already been implied earlier, so there really is only one question that needs answering, and as I said, the readers can decide how they want things to end. Of course, I have since discovered that the author has died so I'm not sure if it ended the way it did because she intended to write a sequel, or if she wanted to give her readers the choice.