Tag Archives: SJ Parris

#BookReview ‘Sacrilege’ by SJ Parris @thestephmerritt #historical #crime

Everywhere he goes in the England of Queen Elizabeth I, Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno runs into trouble. In Sacrilege, third in this quickly-becoming-addictive series by SJ Parris, Bruno is in Canterbury to help an old friend prove her innocence of murder. And to spy for his master, Sir Francis Walsingham. SJ ParrisWhen the woman he loved in the first book of the series asks for his help, Bruno risks the wrath of Walsingham and heads to Canterbury. Set in turbulent political times, the various historical plots are twisted and complicated. Weary at Bruno’s determination to pursue what he believes is a lost cause, Walsingham charges him with identifying a traitor in the cathedral administration in Canterbury. Parris weaves a fictional plan by Catholics in Britain and France to use the ‘discovered’ bones of Thomas Becket to anoint a new Catholic king when France should invade England. The labyrinthine politics and geography of the inner sanctums of Canterbury cathedral add to the tension. The scenes in the crypt are thrilling as Bruno again and again takes huge risks to discover the truth. When he is charged with murder and a fabricated charge of theft, he realises his contacts at the royal court in London are too far away to help.
Bruno is a foreigner in England, a country where a strange accent and tanned skin make him an instant threat, his guilt automatically assumed. Parris populates her Canterbury with a collection of believable fictional characters, conflicted people who must sometimes take a wrong decision in order to survive or protect a loved one. Throw in an odious servant, a persecuted family of Huguenot weavers, a tremulous canon who has spied for Walsingham but missed some big hints of trouble and an independently-minded young woman not afraid to tell the truth as she sees it.
At times the pace slows to walking speed but turn a page and another chase begins or clue arrives. When the twist arrived at the end I was surprised, then realised I had known all along. Surely a satisfactory conclusion?
Click the title below to read my reviews of the first two books in the Giordano Bruno series:-

If you like this, try:-
The Diabolical Bones’ by Bella Ellis
Lord John and the Private Matter’ by Diana Gabaldon
Or the Bull Kills You’ by Jason Webster

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
SACRILEGE by SJ Parris @thestephmerritt #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5CC via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Prophecy’ by SJ Parris @thestephmerritt #historical #crime

Prophecy is the second instalment of SJ Parris’s Giordano Bruno books, based on the real-life Italian philosopher. Parris has taken some of the known facts about the real Bruno and enhanced rumour into fact, making him a spy for Queen Elizabeth I’s spymaker and Secretary of State, Sir Francis Walsingham. The result is a delicious mix of proven historical fact, betrayals, plots and assignations with a healthy dose of invention and a charismatic character to root for. The real Bruno was also a cosmologist, proclaiming that the universe was infinite and that the stars in the sky were suns, like ours, circled by their own planets, and this theme runs throughout the books. To our modern eyes, Bruno appears a scientist; in his time, he was deemed a heretic. SJ ParrisIn Prophecy, Bruno must play a dangerous game on behalf of Walsingham, living in the house of the French ambassador and party to a plot to put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. Always an outsider – Bruno is a religious exile, a renegade monk who escaped his Italian friary in search of sanctuary from the Inquisition – and has learned to be an observer amongst dangerous factions in order to survive. He has also learned to defend himself with his fists.
Queen Elizabeth makes herself vulnerable to influence through her burgeoning interest in prophecies and astrology. When a maid in the queen’s household is found dead, her body branded with astrological signs, fear stalks the streets. Pamphlets about with fantasy and rumour are sold freely. Bruno is charged by Walsingham to identify the murderer. The pace of the story ramps up when Bruno makes a connection with the men plotting in support of the Scottish Queen. As the various parties dance elegantly around each other, stepping into shadows and dissembling in full light, Bruno must unravel true friends from false.
Second in the series, this book moved much quicker for me than the first, Heresy. Key characters are already established as is the historical context, political manipulation and religious conflict [intricate at the best of times]. There are plenty of traitorous suspects, dodgy meeting places, ill-advised assignations and dark alleyways to furnish twists and surprises a plenty.
Prophecy was a 4* read for me. Now I’m looking forward to reading the next book, Sacrilege. My first love is CJ Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series, but this runs it a close second.

Read my review of HERESY, first in the Giordano Bruno series.

If you like this, try:-
Dangerous Women’ by Hope Adams
The Other Eden’ by Sarah Bryant
The Confessions of Frannie Langton’ by Sara Collins

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
PROPHECY by SJ Parris @thestephmerritt #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5ub via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Heresy’ by SJ Parris @thestephmerritt #historical #crime

Including touches such as secret messages written in orange juice, ciphers and hidden codes, Heresy is the introduction to the Giordano Bruno series of historical mysteries by SJ Parris. Set in 1583, this is the English Reformation of Queen Elizabeth I and her spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, as they steer the country from catholicism to protestantism. Meanwhile, catholics continue to worship in secret. SJ Parris

Former Italian monk turned heretic and philosopher Bruno rides out of London on a horse borrowed from the French ambassador, to meet with a royal party bound for Oxford. Accompanied by his friend, courtier poet and secret spy, Sir Philip Sidney, Bruno has two secret missions. The first, along with Sidney, is to expose a catholic conspiracy in the university city. The second is to find a heretical text, stolen long ago but rumoured to be in England, which states that the earth revolves around the sun. This second mission is the one, I suspect, that will continue beyond this book and through the whole series.

When the murders begin, Bruno’s position as an outsider at Lincoln College is both an advantage and disadvantage. His lack of foreknowledge gives him a clear vision of factual events and the awkward questions to ask, but his ignorance of the incestuous and competitive city’s petty squabbles, hidden feuds and flirtations puts him in the path of danger. He stumbles from incident to incident, working out who to believe and who to trust. Regarded as a foreigner and therefore a suspect by everyone else, Bruno’s difficulties reflect the turmoil of the times. The murders are brutal but so are the legal punishments for crimes.

A dense plot with an infinity of tentacles of historical fact and religious conflict that, at times, I found it hard to keep up. In the style of truly satisfying detective stories, when the villain was unveiled I thought ‘of course’ and was annoyed with myself for not guessing correctly.

Much-compared to CJ Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series – which are set in the times of Elizabeth’s father King Henry VIII and his master fixer Thomas Cromwell – I found this book slower-moving and different in focus, but nevertheless enjoyable.

I do love finding a good series. Moving on to book two, Prophecy.

If you like this, try:-
Dissolution’ by CJ Sansom
The Ashes of London’ by Andrew Taylor
The Last Hours’ by Minette Walters

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
HERESY by SJ Parris @thestephmerritt #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5dX via @SandraDanby