Heresy (Giordano Bruno #1), by S.J. Parris

Seven stars

Always a fan of historical fiction, I decided to come back to the S.J. Parris series that I tried a few years ago. Parachuting into the middle of the religious wars across Europe and using late 16th century England as a setting, Parris creates quite the story that has many facets, sure to entertain the reader. Giordano Bruno was never the most conforming monk when he took his orders in Naples. He sought to educate himself and challenge the beliefs of his monastic order quite regularly. When he was caught with a controversial (and illegal) book one day, Bruno chose to flee rather than face the severe punishment. After spending years on the run from the Inquisition, Bruno was excommunicated and left to educate himself in some of Europe’s best universities. When Bruno makes his way to England, he is welcomed as somewhat of an outcast and invited by one of the close advisors of Queen Elizabeth to make his way to Oxford. With little to lose, Bruno begins the journey in the royal party and prepares to explore the clash between the celestial and religious aspects of the universe with a well-established priest. During all this, Bruno comes upon an event that can only be murder, though the local authorities are baffled about it. A curious investigator with an interest in solving cases, Bruno begins to look into events, as more men soon find themselves dead. Bruno is eventually formally invited to help solve the cases, all of which eventually have a common theme. While trying to probe a little deeper, Bruno’s papist past could come back to haunt him in England, even as he tries to explain that he no longer has ties to the Roman Church. With a killer on the loose and Bruno’s own safety in question, no one can be sure what will happen or whose blood will be shed. An interesting tale that opens this series with a bang and keeps things moving effectively throughout. Recommended to those who love a good historical mystery, as well as the reader who enjoys exploration of the religious situation in 16th century England.

This is one of those books that will take some dedication and attention to detail in order to properly enjoy its premise. Parris writes clearly and very well, though there is so much going on and woven into the narrative that tuning out could mean disaster for the reader. Giordano Bruno proves to be a wonderful protagonist, with a great deal of backstory. His flight from his monastery offers an interesting story arc that can be followed, but it is his mysterious arrival in England and passion for challenging authority that will keep Bruno’s character one that the reader will enjoy. As Parris sets some of the needed groundwork for the series, she creates a wonderful character who is not afraid of rocking the proverbial boat. Other characters to just as well to keep the reader guessing, as they fill the narrative with their own points of view and keep the mystery strong. The story was quite well-paced, if perhaps a bit too detailed for my liking. I took the audiobook approach and was welcomed with the soothing voice of John Lee to guide me along. The story is rich with history and religious clashes, both of which creates something that is dense at times and overwhelming for some readers. With chapters of a decent length and a plot that evolves throughout, Parris does well with this piece and introduces some needed backstory that will surely play a role in coming novels. Bruno’s position will surely be questioned throughout by the English, but his attention to detail when it comes to mysteries is sure to be something the reader can enjoy. I am eager to see where things go from here, as the time period begs for more tales that mix religion and criminal activity.

Kudos, Madam Parris, for a great start to the series. I am eager to see where things are going and will try to keep focussed enough to enjoy the rest of these books.

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