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Review – SJ Parris, Heresy

S J Parris’ Heresy.

Passion, treachery and murder in Elizabethan England.

Monk, Giordano Bruno, is sent to Oxford undercover, where the university is believed to be a hotbed of French dissent.

His own true purpose is to find a book, banned by the Elizabethan government and thought smuggled from Catholic Europe and hidden away at the university, which, when translated would have had (Bruno believed) enormous ramifications for religion – all religions.

But instead he is embroiled in a plot he never intended to be a part of.

But curiosity and his concern of Sophia, the rector’s beautiful daughter, gets the better of him. And nearly gets him killed.

At a time when Catholics have recently found themselves living in a Protestant world, at a time when suspicions and accusations were rife, it takes an ex-communicated Italian monk to uncover the truth at Oxford.

The book shows how much religion dominated the lives of all men at this time, and shows who would be willing to kill or be killed in its name.

It also shows the problems of living in such a tight-knit community, where everyone knows each others secrets, but are too afraid of the consequences to admit them. This lack of honesty leads to the deaths of their colleagues, each in their own bizarre circumstances, and their desires not to get to the bottom of it, but to sweep it under the carpet for fear of their own secrets being revealed.

It is left to the outsider Bruno, who won’t let the matter settle, and the deeper he digs, the darker the secrets that are revealed.

The book is a fascinating, detective-style thriller, set in a troublesome age. Parris merges the two genres, historical and thriller, effortlessly, and keeps a perfect pace, revealing a startling array of characters, who say one thing, but mean another, and a bizarre set of clues, that will leave you guessing until the end.

While I don’t read many thrillers, or detective novels, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, for its historical context, and was pleasantly surprised to be intrigued by the detective element too.

The story is gripping and full of suspense, and in Giordano Bruno, an unlikely, but utterly likeable, hero is born.

I will be reading more.

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