Tag Archives: Tudor detective

#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

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#BookReview ‘Revelation’ by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective

I’m sorry if I’m beginning to sound like a cracked record, but I continue to love the Matthew Shardlake Tudor detective series by CJ Sansom. Fourth in the series, Revelation, is a roller-coaster ride of killings motivated by the Book of Revelation’s fire and damnation. Shardlake and his assistant Barak race around London struggling to second-guess the murderer’s motivations and identify his next likely target. CJ Sansom

Sansom achieves a difficult feat for a historical novelist, he balances world-building – the Tudor toxic politics and Tudor gossip-mongering – will Lady Catherine Parr say yes to the King’s proposal – with Shardlake’s legal world and the fascinating detail and colour which brings London in Spring 1543 to life. Once again we see Shardlake’s vulnerability – when an old friend is murdered in mystifying and frightening circumstances – and his moral strength as he faces the dangers of investigation. These dangers do not threaten only his life but of those around him; they also threaten his position and future, as he is drawn unwillingly again into the circle of the Tudor court where queens, and courtiers, often last only a short time. These are the only historical novels I have read which are truly page-turners in its meaning of ‘one more chapter before I turn out the light’.

Set at a time of radical religious reform, when saying the wrong thing may find you shamed, hanged or burned, Matthew is working on the case of a teenage boy sent to Bedlam hospital. Is he mad, or possessed by the devil? Is he safer in Bedlam or with his parents where he might escape and be burned as a heretic. When Matthew’s friend is found dead in bizarre circumstances he is charged with solving the crime by Archbishop Cranmer. Guy of Malton, former apothecary monk from Dissolution, the first book in the series, is now a doctor and has a theory that excludes God and religion. Could a serial killer be at loose?

If you want to lose yourself in book, to travel to another world and time, then try this series. I am already anticipating the loss when I have read the last book. But the Shardlake books have so much detail and depth with recurring characters who become familiar,  I know I will be re-reading them soon.

Read my reviews of the first three books in the series DissolutionDark Fire and Sovereign.

If you like this, try:-
Orphans of the Carnival’ by Carol Birch
The Lady of the Rivers’ by Philippa Gregory
The Cursed Wife’ by Pamela Hartshorne

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#BookReview ‘Sovereign’ by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective

CJ SansomSovereign by CJ Sansom is third in the Matthew Shardlake series and the best so far. Taking true events –Henry VIII’s Royal Progress to York in 1541, the northern rebellion against the crown and the rumours of Queen Catherine’s infidelity – Sansom writes a complex story of rebels, betrayal, bastards and inheritance that keeps one more page turning.

Lawyer Shardlake is in York at the bequest of Archbishop Cranmer ostensibly to present legal petitions to the King, but he also has a secret task. To watch over the welfare of a Yorkist prisoner, ensuring the man is kept alive and able to be interrogated in London. Shardlake agrees reluctantly, aware he will be keeping alive a man destined for torture and the rack. But a series of odd events make him question his role in York and whether his life is in danger. This is a densely plotted novel with many clues and dead ends as Shardlake tries to find answers – to the murder of a local glazier removing glass from church windows, to an old legend about royal succession, to the connivings and hidden intentions of some of the ladies employed by the Queen, and why an old enemy is rousing dissent against Shardlake. As always, he is determined to stay on the side of what is right; which lands him in trouble. At his side, Barak defends his master and cautions him to stop annoying powerful people by asking difficult questions and failing to fall into line. But this is the reason Shardlake is so popular with readers; when his hunched back is ridiculed by the king, no less, it made me want to shout out aloud.

The mid-sixteenth century is a dark point in history with an arrogant and obsessive king, an obsequious court, and corruption everywhere. Set mostly in York, this novel has a different feel to the previous two. The politics of the time saw Yorkshire punished for its support of the House of York and its opposition to the Tudors, there was much poverty, starvation and injustice. So, fertile ground for Sansom to use as the basis for Sovereign, writing period detail with the tension of a modern thriller as Shardlake questions his own beliefs and values. Uncomfortable reading in places, doing the right thing is sometimes easy to talk about but not always easy to do.

Very good. I can’t wait to read the next in the series.

Read my reviews of the first two books in the series Dissolution and Dark Fire.

If you like this, try:-
Dark Aemilia’ by Sally O’Reilly
The Ashes of London’ by Andrew Taylor
Lord John and the Private Matter’ by Diana Gabaldon

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#BookReview SOVEREIGN by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3YA via @SandraDanby