Prophecy by S J Parris

Harper Collins| 2011| 448p| Library book| 4*

Prophecy by S J Parris (a pseudonym of Stephanie Merritt) is the second book in her Giordano Bruno series of historical thrillers. Giordano Bruno was a 16th century heretic philosopher and spy. On her website Stephanie Merritt has written about how she first discovered him. Her version of Bruno is a fictional creation, though many of the situations he encounters are based on historical fact.

Bruno started out as a Dominican friar in Naples, but fled his order to escape the Inquisition, went on the run through Italy, found work as an itinerant teacher and within three years had ended up in Paris as personal tutor to the King of France. By 1583 he was in England, working for the Queen Elizabeth I’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham.

Prophecy begins in the autumn of 1583, when Elizabeth’s throne is in peril, threatened by Mary Stuart’s supporters scheme to usurp the rightful monarch. I wrote about the opening of the book together with an extract from page 56 in this post. After a young maid of honour is murdered, with occult symbols carved into her flesh, Bruno is assigned to infiltrate the plotters and secure the evidence that will condemn them to death.

I think this description on the Fantastic Fiction website summarises the book very well:

It is the year of the Great Conjunction, when the two most powerful planets, Jupiter and Saturn, align – an astrological phenomenon that occurs once every thousand years and heralds the death of one age and the dawn of another. The streets of London are abuzz with predictions of horrific events to come, possibly even the death of Queen Elizabeth.

When several of the queen’s maids of honor are found dead, rumors of black magic abound. Elizabeth calls upon her personal astrologer, John Dee, and Giordano Bruno to solve the crimes. While Dee turns to a mysterious medium claiming knowledge of the murders, Bruno fears that something far more sinister is at work. But even as the climate of fear at the palace intensifies, the queen refuses to believe that the killer could be someone within her own court.

Bruno must play a dangerous game: can he allow the plot to progress far enough to give the queen the proof she needs without putting her, England, or his own life in danger?

In this utterly gripping and gorgeously written novel, S. J. Parris has proven herself the new master of the historical thriller.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt I was back there in 1583, in the thick of the intrigue and danger that characterised the period. I loved all the details of the court life and the interaction between the various factions, with rivalry between Catholics and Protestants, whilst the involvement of Dr John Dee intrigued me. Bruno, himself, fascinated me and now I want to know more about him and also about Stephanie Merrick’s books as well as those written under her pen name, S J Parris.

My Friday Post: Prophecy by S J Parris

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading. You can also share from a book you want to highlight just because it caught your fancy.

This week I’m featuring one of my library books, Prophecy, It’s the second in S J Parris’ Giordano Bruno series set in the reign of Elizabeth I. Bruno was a monk, poet, scientist, and magician on the run from the Roman Inquisition on charges of heresy for his belief that the Earth orbits the sun and that the universe is infinite. In this book set in 1583, Elizabeth’s throne is in peril, threatened by Mary Stuart’s supporters scheme to usurp the rightful monarch.

It begins with a Prologue:

Mortlake, House of John Dee
3rd September, Year of Our Lord 1583

Without warning, all the candles in the room’s corners flicker and feint, as if a sudden gust has entered, but the air remains still. At the same moment, the hairs on my arms prickle and stand erect and I shudder; a cold breath descends on us, though outside the day is close.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to Page 56 or 56% on your  ereader . If you have to improvise, that is okay. *Find a snippet, short and sweet, but no spoilers!

Page 56:

‘Treaties be damned!’

Henry Howard throws back his chair and pounds a fist on the table, so suddenly that again we all jolt in our seats. The candles have burnt down so far that his shadow leaps and quivers up the panels behind him and creeps over the ceiling, looming like an ogre in a children’s tale.

Lord Henry Howard, was a devout Catholic and a dangerous man, the head of the most powerful Catholic family in England. He took part in the 1583 Throckmorton Plot, one of a series of attempts by English Roman Catholics to depose Elizabeth I of England and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots, then held under house arrest in England.

Candles flickering, shadows cast and a feeling of dread and suspense in both these extracts set the scene for a thrilling story!

Library Books – December 2020

I last wrote about the books I’ve borrowed from the library in February – just before the lockdown in March. Although the libraries opened up a while ago with a Select and Collect service I haven’t used it and now there is time-limited browsing at some branches, and the mobile library is also operating. On Tuesday it came here and I ventured up the road to the library van.

We can’t actually go into it but I could ask for books – I came home with just three. I had to wait for a couple of days before I could actually touch them. Here they are in a library bag showing the date of the next mobile visit.

Today I took them out of the bag – all historical fiction:

I haven’t read any of S J Parris’ books before but Prophecy looks very interesting. It’s the second in her Giordano Bruno series set in the reign of Elizabeth I. Bruno was a monk, poet, scientist, and magician on the run from the Roman Inquisition on charges of heresy for his belief that the Earth orbits the sun and that the universe is infinite. In this book set in 1583, Elizabeth’s throne is in peril, threatened by Mary Stuart’s supporters scheme to usurp the rightful monarch.

Next Red Rose, White Rose by Joanna Hickson, set in 15th century England during the Wars of the Roses when Cecily Neville was torn between both sides. Her father was Richard Neville, the Duke of Westmorland and a staunch Lancastrian and she married Richard Plantagenet of York and became the mother of Edward IV and Richard III. I’ve read and enjoyed two of her books, The Tudor Crown and The Lady of the Ravens, so I’m expecting to like this book too.

I’ve always been fascinated by stories of Richard the Lionheart, so Lionheart by Sharon Penman about Richard I appeals to me. Richard was crowned King in 1189 and set off almost immediately on the Third Crusade to regain the Holy Land. Sharon Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour is one of my all time favourite books, and I have four more by her in my Kindle waiting to be read – Here Be Dragons, The Queen’s Man, Prince of Darkness and When Christ and His Saints Slept. So I can see that next year will be a Penman reading feast – and I may have to buy an e-book copy of Lionheart as the font is minute in the printed book!