Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Prophecy, by S. J. Parris

Prophecy is the second in a detective series featuring the historical figure of Giordano Bruno, following Heresy, which I wrote about longer ago than I thought. (Parris writes novels faster than I get around to blogging about them, apparently. The third book, Sacrilege, is already out in paperback.) .

This second book takes Bruno to London, just in time for the Great Conjunction "Year of Our Lord 1583", when two powerful planets, Jupiter and Saturn, are heading for alignment, heralding the death of one age and the beginning of another. While you might think this could mean any number of things, it's all bad news for Queen Elizabeth the First, with prophecies of her downfall and plots from the Continent to make England Catholic again.

Bruno, secretly employed as a spy, finds himself implanted in the French ambassador's court, as do a fair number of other non French people, each with his own agenda. Bruno is also consorting with that Renaissance man Jonathan Dee, who has made himself the queen's astrologer and is also dabbling in dark magic on the side--a very risky hobby. Like Dee, Bruno is continuing on the trail of a lost book that contains the secret of immortality, among other things. Obviously, they aren't the only ones looking for it.

Things start to go bad when one of the queen's maids of honor is found dead. And Bruno of course finds himself at the heart of the investigation.

As with the previous book, I find Bruno an engaging and interesting character, and as also with that book, I would like to have more of his own thought, this 'humanist dangerously ahead of his time" as Publishers Weekly has it. But the story is well crafted and the scholarship of the "author who is S. J. Parris" shows through. I'll be reading Sacrilege as well.

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