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VINE VOICEon 25 April 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a really well written and entertaining story. The principal characters (both historical and fictional) are well rounded and believable. Although, from the little I know of the real Bruno, I suspect he was not quite as nice a chap as S J Parris would have us believe - he seemed to manage to annoy everyone he came into contact with eventually. But that's being picky - this fictional Bruno is a likeable, intelligent spy/detective.

The cast of historical characters is pretty much a who's who of Tudor politics and alchemical proto-science: Walsingham, Burghley, Sidney, Mary Stuart, Howard, Dee, Kelly all make an appearance. The details are spot on and historically accurate - or plausible guesses where the truth isn't known (there is no evidence that Bruno met Dee for example but it seems highly unlikely that he didn't and it makes the story work so what the heck).

Historical fiction is quite difficult to pull off, in my view. How much were people in Tudor England quite like us in their day to day lives and relationships, and how much were they entirely alien in their world view? Parris's characters seem to be a little more modern than I suspect the real people were - but I think she generally gets the balance right and mostly steers clear of overtly anachronistic dialogue and motives.

I will be going back and reading the first in this series and will be hoping for many further volumes - maybe even a TV series with someone like Joseph Fiennes as Bruno, or would that be too much to ask?
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have just spent the afternoon in Elizabethan London, walking through its alleyways in the fog and using the river transport to grand houses and to the somewhat more disreputable taverns of Southwark. I've been to court and to Dr Dee's house at Mortlake and met several characters that I hope to reencounter.

I loved the imagery with which SJ Parris brings her Elizabethan world alive - the description of Westminster Hall is a painting in words - the sunlight gilding the silks and jewellery of the court and the faces of Tallis' choir, also the domestic interiors are entirely credible. She is a really good writer and this is an excellent book, which I found impossible to put down until I knew the ending. It wasn't just the story I enjoyed though, the book is so well written that the descriptions and characters were a pleasure to live amongst and I will definitely be reading the first in the series.

Bruno, our excommunicated ex-monk detective and narrator, is an appealing character, he has a conscience and acts accordingly, although I could wish him a slightly less good man as he resists temptation at every turn. I'd like him to have a little more fun which might round out his character and I hope Parris will give him a better time in the third book.

Its an intriguing mystery with a realistic Elizabethan setting and the machinations of Elizabeth's political enemies add richness and tension to the plot. She uses Dr Dee, Sydney, Leicester, Walsingham and Burghley in an entirely believable way but doesn't stuff the book with famous names to the point where you wonder when Shakespeare and Marlowe are going to appear arm in arm - they don't and the book is the better for it.

A really excellent and enjoyable experience - highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a follow-up to Heresy. Once again Italian ex-monk Giordano Bruno becomes involved in unravelling a mystery. This time two of Queen Elizabeth's maids are found murdered and there seems to be a plot to kill the queen and install Mary Stuart on the throne.

Prophecy is quite a lively read. The atmosphere of late 16th century London is well drawn and the scenes at court are particularly vivid. The diplomatic rivalries, religious in-fighting and scheming are well drawn. I feel that the plot became over-complex with the introduction of occult symbols carved into the flesh of victims and the search for the esoteric book of Hermetic wisdom. Bruno is not a very attractive character, nor unfortunately were any of the other protagonists (though I liked Castelnau, the French ambassador). Although the plot moves at a good pace there are some rather "clunky" moments. At one point Bruno is trapped in a room and a villain informs him of his role in the plot and that Bruno will presently be killed. Then the bad guy leaves Bruno alone in the room. Big mistake! And right at the end just as Bruno is once again facing certain death a new character appears from nowhere! Very unsatisfactory.

A good summer read.....but my loyalties remain with Shardlake!
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Having read and enjoyed Giordano Bruno's first outing in Heresy, I was looking forward to reading about the disgraced monk's next case. 'Heresy', a run-of-the-mill historical crime novel, was set apart from other books in this burgeoning genre by good quality writing, and a thoughtful analysis of religious intolerance. In 'Prophecy', both are present again, but the book is badly let down by lacklustre crime solving.

'Prophecy' centres on the brutal murder of one of Elizabeth I's ladies-in-waiting. The political atmosphere is once again tense, and Catholic agitators are decrying the 'Bastard Queen'. With murder plots being hatched in every corner, Bruno and his boss Lord Walsingham, have to pinpoint the true nature of the threat. The murder even has an occult dimension, with aspects of the death corresponding to a prophecy that predicts the demise of the monarch. Increasingly isolated within the French Embassy, Bruno must work out which, if any, of the embassy staff are involved in a plot to replace Elizabeth with the Catholic Mary Stuart.

Though slow at first, the plot of Prophecy is solid. Based in some interesting history, the novel feels authentic and well-researched. Once again, Parris has been able to use history to mirror current affairs. In this case the torture of 'terrorists'. Walsingham believes that torture of the occasional innocent victim, is a price worth paying to keep his nation safe. Bruno disagrees entirely. The portrayal of religious intolerance and antagonism is once again very well done.

The problem for me is that Bruno, likeable though he is, is almost entirely useless. Instead of solving any of the crimes, he blunders about, jumping to the wrong conclusions. He only gets the bottom of things, because when the criminals capture him, instead of killing him immediately, they take the trouble to explain their plot to him. Like James Bond, Bruno then proceeds to escape in an implausible manner, and bring the perpetrators to justice.

This would be bad enough if it happened once, but twice is unforgivable. To compound matters, A third party, who is otherwise barely in the novel, turns up unprompted, just to give Bruno the answer he needs. Similarly, Bruno's life is saved a number of times, by a shadowy figure; again a third party, that plays almost no part in the rest of the novel. My final moan is that whenever Bruno is out and about on the streets of London, he keeps 'feeling a pair of eyes' on him, or 'catching a shadow in the corner of his eye.' This quickly becomes tiresome, doing little to maintain tension.

With its slow pace at the beginning, and weak plotting, 'Prophecy' fails to build on the excellent foundations laid with 'Heresy'. An opportunity missed.
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on 13 August 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you have read Heresy already, you will be eager to find out how Giordano Bruno is enjoying his life in England. His first adventure here involved investigating the catholic plots against Queen Elizabeth I in Oxford for Lord Walsingham.

Bruno returns to England, having spent some time with King Louis, attached to the French embassy in London. Pretty soon he has been persuaded by Walsingham to spy on the gathering plots by Guise, the French, the Spanish, Henry Howard and others to take the English thrown by force and put Mary in the throne.

Without giving too much away, the plotting and counter-plotting between the various contingents becomes extremely complex. Meanwhile, one of Elizabeth's attendants in murdered in Richmond (London) and mysterious signs left on her body. Are these portending the end of Elizabeth's reign?

The second book is slower paced than the first, but is a good read. I would rate it as maybe 4.5* as it only started to grip me after 100 or so pages. However, despite that, I would recommend it.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 20 May 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Bruno Giordano, the hero of Prophecy, is a real life historical figure who was eventually burned at the stake in 1600 for heresy - the Vatican were not at all keen on his scientific ideas, most of which subsequently proved to be correct. Parris blends the true life background of Giordano into her fiction even to the extent that Giordano was really in England from 1583-5 when Prophecy is set. Although unproven he is reputed to have been spying on Catholic conspirators for Walsingham which is a central tenet of Parris' plot. The author has gone to a lot of trouble to make sure that as far as possible her account is historically accurate and the blend of fiction and history is cleverly put together and does not feel contrived.

The book involves Giordano investigating an apparent plot against Queen Elizabeth with a serial killer sub plot concerning the murders of maids of honour. The story is competently put together and keeps the interest alive throughout. The scenes are set very well and the reader gets a real sense of the period surroundings. I would imagine that most readers, even if historical novels are outside of their normal reading material, will enjoy Prophecy and I found it to be quite a page turner.

Having read this story out of sequence, the first in the series, Heresy will be next on my reading list and I look forward to further instalments which will surely follow.
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on 7 September 2012
To my mind this is the weakest of the three bruno mysteries to date. The others set in Oxford and Canterbury had stronger plots and the crime was more central to the action. In this the crime seems a simple adjunct to material about Catholic plotting and the effect is more diffuse. Few of trhe characters come really alive except perhaps some of the people at the French Embassy where Bruno resides. There are one or two technical errors such as having Henry Howard say he had to be a lodger at his nephew's house when in fact he had a substantial Suffolk property. But the greatest flaw to me is that the book is written in the first person present tense, which I dislike. I don't know why, as the other Bruno books are written in the past tense. But others may not mind.
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on 12 January 2012
This is the second book by S J Parris about Tudor London. The first book being 'Heresy'. The main character is a de-frocked Italian monk called Giordano Bruno who has been sent to England under the patronage of Henri 111 of France. Whilst in England he is called on by Francis Walsingham to solve a sinister occult murder. In doing so he risks the chance of his own sinister past becoming revealed. This book is well written and has a good plot but, in my opinion, does not compare with C J Samson's similar books set again in Tudor times - albeit in Henry V111's reign and not Elizabeth 1. However, I look forward to reading the third book in this series which I am sure will be forthcoming.
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on 4 September 2013
What a find! Read 'Heresy' and thoroughly enjoyed is, so thought I would read the next one along.......Well crafted, hints and diversions, good history, well located and excellent storyline. I'll be looking out for more by this author - real page-turner!
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on 23 October 2014
While in Heresy the historical truth, that Bruno went to Oxford for a debate with Sidney and the Palatine, sat uneasily alongside the fiction, here the history is central. Not knowing the details before I read it, I did not know which parts of the conspiracy against Elizabeth were truth and which were fiction.

It was, however, easy to see the fiction in how it impacted Bruno, because the plot formula was identical to Heresy. An initial chapter that is an exciting short story on its own, although in Prophecy it is more integral to the plot. A data dump as the story proper starts. A murder, which happens earlier in Prophecy, where the story focuses on some unusual and ritualistic features about it. This will in due course be followed by two more similar murders. A number of male characters who could be the suspects, who are not particularly well-rounded, plus one feisty young female character who is.

A series of events and conversations that progress rather aimlessly leaving a trail of real clues and red herrings. A first climax two thirds of the way through in which the villains conveniently explain why they are not the killers but do account for a number of the red herrings, before allowing Bruno to make an unbelievable escape. Some more high paced action before the final climax, when the REAL murderers conveniently explain what has happened, including as a bit of an afterthought a rather lame explanation for the weird bits of the murders, and then ALSO, entirely unconvincingly, fail to dispatch Bruno on the spot, and he escapes again. An epilogue explaining who was captured, and which one of the villains got away.

For all that, Parris is a very competent writer and makes the formula work. The mystery side of this is well done, particularly since it integrates so much real history without giving the whodunnit away to those who are knowledgeable. Unlike Heresy, and presumably aping Mantel's Wolf Hall, which would have come out shortly before she wrote Prophecy, this is written in the historic present, so characters 'do' something rather than 'did' it. Personally I find this irritating in Mantel, and even more irritating when Parris has clearly copied her, but it has become very common so that is probably not something that will worry others.
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