Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Heresy by S.J. Parris

Heresy, An Historical Thriller, by S.J. Parris, is the first novel in a new mystery series set in 1583 in Oxford, England.  At the center of the novel is Giordano Bruno, an Italian monk excommunicated by the Roman Catholic church.  Bruno, a street smart philosopher, finds his way to England and seeks refuge there to spread his more tolerant religious thinking.  Bruno is invited to speak at Oxford.  En route, he is recruited as a spy by Protestant Queen Elizabeth's secretary of state to report on underground Catholic activities in Oxford.  As an excommunicated Catholic, the Queen can trust him; but as a Catholic, he has access to people and meetings that Protestants will never manage.  At Oxford, several people die and Bruno, the outsider, is thrust into the role of detective. Parris loosely bases her protagonist on the real monk and philosopher, Giordano Bruno

The historical novelist faces two challenges: creating a believable setting and telling a good story in that setting.  Parris succeeded at creating a realistic and detailed back drop with characters that have real flaws.  Although the story shows terrific promise and generates intrigue and tension, it ends a too melodramatically and fizzes out by the end.

Recommendation:  If you want the very best in historical thrillers, I'd first recommend CJ Sansom and David Liss.  Parris is an up-and-comer with good potential.  Her newest novel, Prophecy, is due out in the U.S. in early May.

Other reviews: From the TBR Pile and S Krishna's Books.  Both are lukewarm.  
Author interview:

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