Heresy by SJ Parris cover

Where have you been all my life, Giordano Bruno – and SJ Parris? This book is so my cup of tea, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to find you.

Author: SJ Parris

Where did I get this book: A kindle read

Finished on: 9 July 2020

Reading books can get you into all sorts of trouble. And this one opens with man so keen to avoid the trouble that comes with a particular book, that he throws it down a rancid open medieval toilet.

The man is Giordano Bruno, a rebellious Italian monk, and the book in question is a banned volume by Erasmus. So begins Heresy, the first in a historical crime series featuring Bruno as our hero and sleuth.

Leaving Erasmus festering in the loo, Bruno flees from the Inquisition and his home country. He makes his way, via the court of Henri I in France, to Elizabethan Britain, where he’s recruited by Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster to Queen Elizabeth I, to sniff out Catholics who might want to assassinate the monarch.

Bruno is an inspired choice of lead character. A real historical figure, not only does he have many interesting facets, but also an ambiguity to his religious standpoint and an understanding of the world that goes far beyond the time he lives in.

We follow Bruno and his friend Philip Sydney as they accompany a visiting dignitary to Oxford University. Ostensibly, they’re there to debate the nature of the universe and entertain the Polish VIP, but Bruno is intending to sniff out some Catholics for Walsingham along the way. Before too long, though, there’s a gruesome and suspicious death in the grounds of the college where our monk is staying and, as if he doesn’t have enough on his plate, Bruno is pulled into solving the mystery.

As a sleuth, Bruno is like a sexy Hercule Poirot. He has the difficulties that come with suspicion of a foreign outsider but also benefits from the way this status disarms people into confiding more than they otherwise might. He has a charm that draws people to him and intellectual capabilities that exceed those of everyone around him.

What he doesn’t share with the Belgian master, though, is arrogance or any reluctance to roll up his sleeves and get physical. Bruno is something of a superhero in this sense, although he takes his fair share of knocks as he untangles the great web of deceit, bitterness and double-dealing in Oxford and gets to the bottom of the murders.

Where have you been all my life, Giordano Bruno – and SJ Parris? This book is so my cup of tea, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to find you. And I can’t wait to see what you do next.

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