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S. J. Parris – Prophecy

May 2, 2011

50. Prophecy by S. J. Parris (2011)
Giordano Bruno, Book 2

Read my review of book:
1. Heresy

Length: 380 pages
Genre: Historical Mystery

Started: 07 April 2011
Finished: 09 April 2011

Where did it come from? From Doubleday for review.
Why do I have it? I really enjoyed Parris’s first novel, Heresy, so I was excited to read her next one.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 11 March 2011.

The planets align,
but do they predict treason
and murder most foul?

Summary: It’s 1583, the year of the Great Conjunction: a rare astronomical event that foretells a time of great upheaval. The word on the streets of London is that the Great Conjunction will result in the death of Queen Elizabeth and the end of the Tudor rule – a result that would certainly please Catholics across the country who long for an end to Protestant rule. The Queen’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, suspects that some of those Catholics may be taking a more active role, however, so he once again enlists the ex-monk Giordano Bruno to go undercover into the house of the French ambassador to investigate. But when one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting is found murdered with astrological symbols cut into her skin, the stakes are suddenly raised. Now Bruno must determine whether or not her death is part of a Catholic plot to overthrow the Queen… or something even more sinister.

Review: Clever, curious, and connected to some very important historical figures, Giordano Bruno is a natural fit for the role of historical detective and spy. With Bruno as her leading man, Parris has once again delivered a mystery that’s engaging, intelligent, and well-grounded in historical fact. She does a wonderful job bringing both the historical backdrop and its inhabitants to life, and while I personally preferred the Oxford setting of Heresy, Parris is equally adept at depicting Elizabethan London.

While for the most part Prophecy moved along well enough, I did get somewhat tired of the politico-religious talk by about the midway point. I understand that tensions between Protestants and Catholics were very real, and very important at the time, but I felt like they were being dwelt on more than they needed to be, and that they were distracting some of the focus from the murders. I also would have been happier if the plot had put a little more emphasis on the arcane nature of the deaths, and thrown us a few more red herrings – mysteries where the detective spends time chasing leads that seem likely but don’t pan out are somehow more satisfying than mysteries where the detective isn’t sure what’s going on until right at the end. This was also the second book I read in a row where the otherwise very intelligent main character suddenly became blind to other people’s shifty behavior right when it was convenient for the plot.

But in the grand scheme of things, my complaints are pretty minor. This book, like Heresy, did what I want my historical mysteries to do: get me immersed in the time period, engage my attention, and keep me reading. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Parris’s mysteries are a lot of fun, and definitely recommended for fans of historical mysteries, or of Tudor historical fiction more generally. While Prophecy does make a few references to the events of Heresy, they’re not at all interdependent books, and could easily be read separately.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: 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.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 46: “At first you might take them to be a couple, they step into the room so close and conspiratorial, until the young woman draws down her hood and moves imediately toward Castelnau with her arms outstretched; he stands and greets his young wife with a spaniel look in his eyes.” – an obsequiously devoted person
  • p. 206: “The baby grizzles; without looking, Jane inserts the knuckle of her little finger into its mouth, and it gnaws gratefully.” – to complain; whimper; whine.
  • p. 270: “If anyone crosses my path before I reach my destination, I can always pretend I am still half drunk and in search of a drink of water or the closestool.” – a stool having a seat with a hole, beneath which a chamber pot is placed.
  • p. 278: ““And I see you are extremely canny. Even Her Majesty’s pursuivants have never managed to find this room…”” – an official attendant on heralds; any attendant or follower.
  • p. 313: “I wonder if _________ is also her lover, if she amuses herself with him while she writes her scheming billets-doux to ______.” – a love letter.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2011 10:53 am

    The premise sounds very interesting. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for this one.

    • May 9, 2011 10:50 am

      Lola – I’ve really enjoyed Parris’s books, so I hope you get a chance to pick them up!

  2. May 3, 2011 9:59 am

    I started to read HERESY a few days ago and I like what I have read so far. Therefore I read your interview with great interest. I’m glad to see that the second book starring Giordano Bruno will be as good as HERESY. I ordered a paperback copy of PROPHECY in advance.

    • May 9, 2011 10:51 am

      EdiFanoB – I think I liked Heresy just a *smidge* more than Prophecy, but they’re both really good. I hope you continue to enjoy them!

  3. May 6, 2011 6:22 pm

    I’ll have to check these out – all things Tudor intrigue me.

    • May 9, 2011 10:55 am

      Carrie – Definitely check them out, then. They manage to be about the Tudor court without directly starring any of the Tudors themselves, which is why I can read them despite my Tudor-burnout. :)

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