S.J. Parris

Hardcover/435 pages
ISBN: 978-0-385-53128-3
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In the world of 1500’s England, the reader finds Protestants pitted against Roman Catholics. Although most commoners wish for nothing more than to return to the Pope’s fold, Queen Elizabeth I sits on the throne. All must swear allegiance to her and her Protestant religion – or risk martyrdom.

Giordano Bruno is the man to follow from the beginning of Heresy, a remarkably well-researched novel. Bruno is a fugitive from Italy, a philosopher who believes that there are other ways at looking at the world rather than following what the Holy Roman Inquisitors say. He is charged with heresy and flees, embarking on a mission to retrieve a sought-after book that has been banned and set on fire by those who believe in the one God theory.

Bruno, above all, is intolerant of stupidity. As part of an escort for a Polish prince, Bruno arrives at mighty Oxford university to debate the rector in charge of the Oxford fellows. The rector believes in the queen’s religion, and Bruno loses the disputation at the Divinity School. Although he loses face in debating issues, Bruno more than makes up for it by solving a murder mystery of divine proportions.

The sub-rector’s body is found inside Oxford’s private gardens, mauled by a wild dog. How did a rabid, violent animal come to be inside the well-protected university with its gates closed? Soon another victim is found in the stronghold of Oxford, practically beheaded with arrows from a crossbow. The clues begin to pile up, and someone leaves sayings and pictures of long dead martyrs in Bruno’s room.

Much like Sherlock Holmes, Bruno must use his powerful mind to put the pieces together and find out why the Oxford fellows are being taken out one by one. He also discovers that an earless man has Bruno in his sights. The man turns out to be a mysterious bookseller who has valuable information on the book Bruno has put his life on the line to find. Other characters enter the mix—like the rector’s daughter Sophia and a groundskeeper who takes care of security. The mystery becomes larger than life, and the reader will not want to put this novel down.

Not since the fast-paced Da Vinci Code has a book been able to offer history in a way that is new and interesting, making it one of the greatest mysteries published in a long time.

Reviewer: Amy E. Lignor