The Secret Dead (Giordano #0.5), by S.J. Parris

Eight stars

Looking to binge read S.J. Parris’ intense Giordano Bruno series, I thought it best to begin with this short story prequel, which appears to lay the groundwork for much of what is to come. It is Naples in 1566 and the city is in the middle of a stifling heat wave. Giordano Bruno is all of eighteen and has recently entered the monastery to devote himself to God. He is known not to be completely on the straight and narrow, having issues listening to those in authority. However, when Bruno is called away one night to help Fra Gennaro, he goes with all the curiosity that he can muster. Gennaro admits that he wishes to share something with Bruno that must be kept highly secret, taking him to the site of a body. This is a young whore who appears to have been strangled, though the reasons are as yet unknown. During the anatomising of the body (one might call it early autopsy work), Bruno and Gennaro discover that she was pregnant, which only adds to the drama. While Bruno vows to keep this to himself, he cannot help but try to piece it all together, trying to determine who would have done this to a young woman, even if she held an unwanted offspring. This is surely the spark that led to the great crime solving work of Giordano Bruno in the years to come, all while holding up his end of a monastic life. An interesting piece to launch the series and I am intrigued to see where things will go from here. Recommended to those who enjoy mysteries of another era, as well as the reader who has discovered the Giordano Bruno series or wants something along these lines.

I remember reading a few of the novels in this series by S.J,. Parris years ago and being quite interested, though I felt them a little heavy. This opening salvo, for lack of. better word, is still light enough that I was able to get it finished in a single sitting and not feel too overwhelmed. Bruno is still young here, trying to come into his own and I think some of the backstory offered up will help as the series progresses. Parris surely introduces that spark that will lead to many an adventure, layering it beneath the rules and regulations that come with living as a monk. The handful of characters who become a part of the story all have their place and Parris may lay some breadcrumbs to help the reader better understand relationships in the larger series, though I have to read those full novels to make the proper connections. The story moved along well and held my attention throughout. I am eager to see how Bruno and others will handle larger mysteries and whether events of the day (in history more than simply daily events) play into the stories to add another depth to them. With this ‘housekeeping’ done, it’s time to tackle the full novels, so let’s get to it!

Kudos, Madam Parris, for an interesting start to the series. I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for your readers and this series.

This book fulfils Topic #2: Brief in the Equinox #11 Reading Challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: