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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 March 2014
My oh my, there are certainly a lot of historical novels about Elizabethan England being published these days. Two major authors have series, Rory Clements' "John Shakespeare" and SJ Parris's "Giordano Bruno". Both authors have new books out, and this review is about "Treachery", the fourth book in the Bruno series.

Giordano Bruno was a real person. He was an Italian monk, who questioned scientific teachings of the Church and was forced to flee for his life. He ended up, eventually, in England, after leaving the priesthood. He went to work for Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's secretary and "spymaster". While working for Walsingham, he befriended Walsingham's son-in-law, Sir Philip Sidney. In "Treachery", the two are sent down to Plymouth and Sir Francis Drake's fleet on a mission for Walsingham. Sir Philip would like to accompany Drake on his next sailing against the Spanish but Bruno wants to stay on terra firma.

As usual when Bruno and Sidney turn up somewhere, so do deaths. Mysterious and brutal and often politically motivated, these murders are solved by Bruno, who is quickly attaining a reputation in Elizabeth's court as a "go-to man" on figuring out intrigue. "Treachery" is a complicated story, though not too complicated to appeal to Parris's many fans of her three previous books in the series. This book is the first in which I've sensed Giordano Bruno has a sense of humor; there's some light-hearted bantering with his friend, Sidney. Parris also gives Giordano a love interest, Lady Arden, the cousin-in-law of Francis Drake. The book is filled with real and imaginary characters and Parris shows a real feel for the politics and scientific advances of the times.

SJ Parris tells a great story in "Treachery". It's well-worth the time spent with her cast of characters in the fairly long book. Also, look for Rory Clements' "John Shakespeare" series.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 April 2014
The setting is Plymouth, the year 1685. Sir Francis Drake has recently been knighted for his intrepid services to naval exploration (for which read: enriching the Queen's coffers). He and his fleet are about to set sail for the New World when the irksome dead body of Robert Dunne, an apparent suicide, is found on board Drake's ship. But is it murder? Sir Philip Stanley and his trusty friend, the scholarly spy Giordano Bruno, are tasked with finding out. Meanwhile, an ancient and priceless religious tome lurks in the background to complicate things still further.

SJ Parris (nom-de-plume of the wonderful Stephanie Merritt) summons up the sights and sounds of the naval town in Tudor times perfectly. One can virtually hear the timbers of the ships creaking, the damp sails snapping and the cries of the ruddy-cheeked fishwives at the dockside. One can almost smell the rotting fish. One can certainly smell a rat and several red herrings!

Whilst the plot is predictable enough, the latest instalment in this series is fun to read and Bruno's relationship with the engagingly irresponsible Stanley is warmly evoked. This is the first of the Giordano Bruno books I have read and though it's not essential to have read the previous tales, I did have the slight feeling that I'd come in "half way through the film". Will I go back and start at the beginning to see what led Bruno to Britain? I think maybe I shall.
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on 4 April 2014
I looked forward to this book coming out as I'd enjoyed the previous books. However, maybe the "first person" genre has run it's course. The characters don't develop, there's no depth to them or the story and it reads a bit like a report...I simply can't get into this one, and as the plot (and what character building there is) follows the same lines as the others it's even a bit irritating. Certainly not comparable to C J Sansom books, let's put it that way.
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on 24 March 2015
The Giordano Bruno series get better and better with each new book. My only gripe is that I have to wait so long for the fifth book! To tide me over I have just read "The Secret Dead" - a Bruno novella. I really enjoy it at much as the full blown novels in the series.

With each book, Bruno's character matures. Each book, in my opinion, is a degree better than the one before it.

The author clearly has a deep knowledge of the history and times of the Elizabethan period. The language, the etiquette, the whole atmosphere that is created, makes the reader feel as if he/she is part of the scene.

The Giordano Bruno series is simply excellent. I cannot recommend it highly enough. My only gripe is that I have to wait so long for the fifth book in the series!
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on 15 March 2014
I've read all her earlier books about Bruno. I have very much enjoyed them and bought this one as soon as I could.

I like her characterisation, the relationships between the characters, dialogue, and the plot lines are complex and interwoven. It has been a good read and a page turner. However, having read them all, I now find the pattern of the format actually started to be noticeable. I knew there would be the usual type of plot twists, the character arcs. That Bruno would not be happy in love, once more. That he would not get his full reward etc. That he would make errors of judgement in similar style. He's becoming predictable! I also noticed a lot of repetition in description, a lot men pulling their hands through their hair, fiddling with their beards, cupping their hands over their mouths and so on. Did her editors not notice? The descriptions of place seemed to be inserted at strategic points to ensure there were some, almost as afterthoughts rather than flowing more naturally through the narrative. Once you start noticing these things it means you are losing your connection with the story and the authors ability to make you suspend belief and be drawn in to the world of the novel.

Am I getting Bruno fatigue I am asking myself? I suppose this is the problem when you have a character that runs as the main protagonist in your novels. What to do with him/ her next? The plot lines start to become less credible as well, and Bruno now appears as an Elizabethan superman, Were Elizabethan men quite so physically fit? Hmmmm.

I shall buy the next book no doubt, because I like the main characters of Bruno and Sydney, and their interactions but I hope the niggles of predictability, believability and repetition are sorted out!

For those reasons I'm not going to give it 5 stars, which I might have done otherwise.
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on 24 November 2014
This is yet another good read in Parris's Giordano Bruno series. Parris always spins a good yarn and throws in lots of little details which help us to get a feel for the period.

My only criticism of Parris's books may be different from the others found here; they are concerned with the ridiculing of the Christian faith. These parts of the books may, of course, simply meant to be Bruno's own views; he's a very unorthodox thinker for that time. But I always get the feeling that maybe these are the author's views too. In 'Treachery', I think she gets completely carried away in places. For example, on page 292, Bruno thinks to himself; 'In all its history, I wonder, has the Christian church ever brought anything but strife and bloodshed, either to those who embraced it or those who refused it?' On page 353 she writes about the possibility of Jesus' disciples removing his body after the crucifixion so that they could falsely claim that he had risen from the dead.

Both of these observations worried me. In the first instance, whilst admitting that fallen human beings are capable of terrible cruelty and foolishness, the Christian church has also brought forth much that is good, from universities and schools, hospitals, many of our laws, most of which are still intact, not to mention the greatest treasures of art, music, architecture (etc) the world has ever known.

In the second instance, the notion that frightened men would hide Jesus' body, claim that he had come back to life, and then die hideous deaths, rather than admit their fabrication, stretches the imagination beyond breaking point.

This kind of 'anti-religion' permeates many books today. I can understand some of the feeling; the general antipathy towards all religious belief (especially since 9/11), but the constant 'rubbishing' of the Christian religion in particular, really bothers me.
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on 23 April 2014
This is another brilliant novel in the Giordano Bruno series. S J Parris' semi fictional Bruno has been cleverly drawn from the many sources available - the author has studied Bruno and his published works in great depth to achieve such a clear picture of Bruno and his era. The plot is well paced, making this book a real page turner.
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on 22 July 2014
It is the mid-1580s and Sir Francis Drake is the toast of England following his exploits against the Spanish. he is planning a new voyage to the Spanish Main to obtain riches for the Crown and his crew. Sir Philip Sidney sees this as an opportunity for adventure and making money and he plans to join the fleet, with or without the Queens' permission. Giordano Bruno, one-time Domenican friar of Naples, sometime spy and recently disgraced pensioner of King Henri of France, accompanies Sidney to Plymouth ostensibly to greet Dom Antonio a visitor from Portugal.

When meeting Drake, Bruno discovers that a member of the crew has dies in circumstances that seem to indicate suicide, but something is wrong. The dead man was involved in a unpleasant incident on a previous voyage wham a dissenter was executed for treason, his brother vowing vengeance. There is the issue of rare book, a gnostic gospel, that is prized but the Vatican and on its trail is Jenkes, the earless bookseller and enemy of Bruno. There is also the matter of Lady Arden, cousin to Lady Drake, and the goings on at the House of Vesta, a brothel for the rich and powerful.

Yet again Parris has written a pacy and exciting read about the fictional adventures of the real character Giordano Bruno. Whilst the story is thrilling, the historical detail does not lack and this makes the series one of the oat enjoyable of its genre.
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on 5 March 2014
Another excellent Bruno novel from SJ Parris. Well written and gripping, very enjoyable. No need to have read the others, although this would be a good idea. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 25 September 2014
I am a huge fan of the historical thriller and particularly enjoy the books by writers such as C J Sansom, Rory Clements and James Forrester.

S J Parris is a writer who stands as an equal with these authors, her stories getting better with every new story published and this is certainly the case with Treachery, her latest offering.

Set in and around Plymouth and featuring Francis Drake, this is an accomplished whodunit, full of characters with shady pasts and a plot which develops nicely after a slowish start.

There are plenty of tense scenes and the writer clearly describes the hustle and bustle and sights and smells of this busy port.There are also sufficient twists and turns to keep the reader engrossed, although it wasn't hard to guess who the guilty party was.

One small criticism - Parris writes long chapters and the book could do with a clearer layout to make it a better read..

Aside from this small point, this is an enjoyable thriller and I look forward to further adventures from this author.
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