Everywhere he goes in the England of Queen Elizabeth I, Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno runs into trouble. In Sacrilege, third in this quickly-becoming-addictive series by SJ Parris, Bruno is in Canterbury to help an old friend prove her innocence of murder. And to spy for his master, Sir Francis Walsingham. When the woman he loved in the first book of the series asks for his help, Bruno risks the wrath of Walsingham and heads to Canterbury. Set in turbulent political times, the various historical plots are twisted and complicated. Weary at Bruno’s determination to pursue what he believes is a lost cause, Walsingham charges him with identifying a traitor in the cathedral administration in Canterbury. Parris weaves a fictional plan by Catholics in Britain and France to use the ‘discovered’ bones of Thomas Becket to anoint a new Catholic king when France should invade England. The labyrinthine politics and geography of the inner sanctums of Canterbury cathedral add to the tension. The scenes in the crypt are thrilling as Bruno again and again takes huge risks to discover the truth. When he is charged with murder and a fabricated charge of theft, he realises his contacts at the royal court in London are too far away to help.
Bruno is a foreigner in England, a country where a strange accent and tanned skin make him an instant threat, his guilt automatically assumed. Parris populates her Canterbury with a collection of believable fictional characters, conflicted people who must sometimes take a wrong decision in order to survive or protect a loved one. Throw in an odious servant, a persecuted family of Huguenot weavers, a tremulous canon who has spied for Walsingham but missed some big hints of trouble and an independently-minded young woman not afraid to tell the truth as she sees it.
At times the pace slows to walking speed but turn a page and another chase begins or clue arrives. When the twist arrived at the end I was surprised, then realised I had known all along. Surely a satisfactory conclusion?
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Click the title below to read my reviews of the first two books in the Giordano Bruno series:-
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