46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Heresy (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have to say up front that I opened this book with some trepidation. My selection of reading matter has been a little dubious recently, and I must admit that it is a long time since I have read a story of this type (historical detective fiction) which I have enjoyed as much.
In 1576, at a Monastery in Naples, a monk named Giordano Bruno is to face the dreaded inquisition after being caught reading a forbidden book - the commentaries of Erasmus. Knowing how far the Inquisitors will go to get a confession of heresy, and having witnesses the burning of a heretic, he decides to flee. The trouble is Bruno's flight is taken as an automatic confession of guilt and he is, therefore, declared a heretic in his absence.
By 1583 Bruno has found his way to England and finds himself in the employ of Sir Francis Walsingham, Secretary of State and Queen Elizabeth's spy catcher. Walsingham wants him to go to Oxford University to discover who the Catholic rebels are. Things, however, become more complicated when Bruno, and his friend Phillip, encounter a series of gruesome murders where the victims seem to have been killed for their alleged heresy - I did find that the murders reminded me a little of the Messiah (by Boris Starling), but this is more my sort of detective story.
Unlike several of the other reviewers I have not read any of C J Samsom's books (although I might give them a try). I was a fan of Ellis Peter's Cadfael when I was younger but admit I gave up the struggle to find anything similar which I enjoyed reading - until now.
S J Parris (aka journalist Stephanie Merritt) has produced a well written, character driven, murder mystery; but it's more than that, there is a descriptive element to the book which is not intrusive - she has managed to achieve a balance between scene setting and story telling. Nor is it too much of a history lesson - yes, there are a couple of historical inaccuracies, but I found that they didn't spoil the context of the story.
I normally dislike first person narrative, I usually find them impossible to read, but I found this very easy to get to grips with.
There is, of course, the mandatory bad guy's monologue - which is necessary to explain his motives and to give vent to his excuses, and, without which we, the reader, would have no way of knowing the how and why behind his actions.
The story flows nicely, moving along at a steady pace - there was no time at which I felt I was reading something which wasn't necessary to the story in some way. It is also great to see that an author has done their historical research and been able to apply it to the story in such a way that it brings the historical setting to life.
There is one thing that I have never understood - why use a penname when writing a story if you are going to have your real name in the bumf on the back of the book - it seems to defeat the object of the exercise of having a pseudonym in the first place.
I thoroughly enjoyed this captivating story; it was a pleasure to read. I can tell you that I spent over 2 hours 30 minutes reading this book while waiting for an appointment and I didn't notice the time had gone. It is a long time since I have felt this gushing about a new book; and I look forward to the next adventure of Giordano Bruno with anticipation.