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by S.J. Parris
HarperCollins, April 2012
456 pages
9,99 GBP
ISBN: 000731776X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Complicated, compelling, clever is a brief summary of SJ Parris' latest excursion into Elizabethan England with all its fears over possible Spanish invasion, Catholic-inspired internal revolution or the more mundane, but even more deadly, outbreaks of plague.

Her renegade Italian monk-turned-spy, Giordano Bruno, is complicated enough in himself. Bruno, excommunicated for his heretical pantheistic theories, is a strange mixture of sacred and profane, peace and violence, with a mind sharp enough and wit cultured enough to find the contradictions of English life and poke fun at them.

Bruno is dragged back into his past when a girl he once loved appeals for his help to prove her innocence of her unlovely husband's murder. The dead man, a prominent magistrate with links to the shady Canterbury Cathedral Foundation, has also come to the attention of Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's spymaster and Bruno's employer, who believes there is a Catholic plot in the city which was once England's holiest shrine and centre of pilgrimage.

Bruno arrives in the cathedral city with his own mission uppermost in his mind, but is soon enmeshed in a devilishly cunning plot to raise the townspeople against the Protestant Queen using the long dead Saint Thomas Beckett as the match to light the fuse of rebellion. He must unravel the secrets of the cathedral crypt which its guardians will go to any length to protect and also solve the gruesome mystery of the death of two young boys.

Parris' sharp eye for detail, her obvious fascination with the strange mixture that was Tudor England, and her ability to identify the contradictions and petty jealousies of small town life, plus her wonderful descriptions of the great cathedral which forms the centrepiece of her book, make this a worthy successor to her earlier Bruno adventures, PROPHECY and HERESY.

Complicated? Certainly. But her story will repay a diligent reader. Clever? Extremely. The plot will keep you guessing right to the last page. Compelling? SACRILEGE drags you in and the pace is gripping enough to maintain the reader's involvement with Bruno's intertwined professional and private lives.

John Cleal is a former soldier and journalist with an interest in medieval history. He divides his time between France and England.

Reviewed by John Cleal, September 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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