Masterfully blending true events with fiction, this blockbuster historical thriller delivers a page-turning murder mystery set on the 16th-century Oxford University campus.
Giordano 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. This alone could have got him burned at the stake, but he was also a student of occult philosophies and magic.
In S. J. Parris's gripping novel, Bruno's pursuit of this rare knowledge brings him to London, where he is unexpectedly recruited by Queen Elizabeth I and is sent undercover to Oxford University on the pretext of a royal visitation. Officially Bruno is to take part in a debate on the Copernican theory of the universe; unofficially, he is to find out whatever he can about a Catholic plot to overthrow the queen.
His mission is dramatically thrown off course by a series of grisly murders and a spirited and beautiful young woman. As Bruno begins to discover a pattern in these killings, he realizes that no one at Oxford is who he seems to be. Bruno must attempt to outwit a killer who appears obsessed with the boundary between truth and heresy.
Like The Dante Club and The Alienist, this clever, sophisticated, exceptionally enjoyable novel is written with the unstoppable narrative propulsion and stylistic flair of the very best historical thrillers.
©2010 S.J. Parris (P)2010 Random House
If you are a lover of historical fiction, and if you enjoy the narrations of John Lee (he is one my favorite narrators). The story line reminds me of Arianna Franklin's series Mistress in the Art of Death, or Ruth Downie's Medicus Series about physician in ancient Rome. I laugh when people complain about John Lee's narration and notice that they most likely never listened to BBC broad casts. I always suggest people listen to the preview that Audiable offers. This way you won't be wasting you $$$ or credits.
If you enjoy historical novels and are familiar with John Lee, by all means give it a listen. I always listen to unabridged versions, however I think the story was overly long and maybe the abridged version will work. The good thing is John Lee narrates both versions.
Giordano Bruno--Renaissance intellectual and adventurer--makes a wonderful sleuth in this engaging mystery set in Elizabethan Oxford. The author's style is compelling, and his copious research does not weigh down the story; however, this is a book that requires attention, and is not necessarily a good choice for listening while working on an involved knitting pattern. John Lee does an excellent job with the narration.
Bruno is a different kind of sleuth. He is less interested in the mystery than he is in science. Lucky for him the two are intertwined in this complicated plot. The historical details are many but put forth to involve the reader rather than to weigh the story down. It has a few slow spots but overall I enjoyed the book and the narration very much. I would read more by this author
Can't stop listening
Elizabethan Oxford, sixteenth century, political/religious conflict, and in sweeps the very real and humane Giordano Bruno. I loved his flaws and his ability to navigate in a world that he knows is full of hidden dangers. I thought John Lee was superb with the accents and the tone. Enjoyed this very much. It was not as dense as it sounded and I found it easy to step into and hard to walk away from.
Right up front, let me say that I would listen to John Lee read just about anything. He is a wonderful narrator, never hitting a wrong note with accents, phrasing or emotion. His voice is a world treasure. Heresy is a perfect vehicle for John's voice. He does all the accents well and the characters are completely distinguishable as he reads. The book is a medieval mystery--well written and slightly gory. I will look forward to the next part of the series, especially if Mr. Lee is the reader.
Not great literature but a departure from the usual mystery format. A good read, and a good listen - nothing over the top in the narration which always makes for the best audiobook experience.
John Lee is my favorite. I like him so much that I have searched for books he narrated vs books by author.
The only reaction I had was that I wished that Lee would have slowed his narration during the first fourth of the book. After Bruno's initial character development, I just couldn't stop listening. If you like John Lee, you'll love both of Parris' book in this series, not just this one.
This is a good medieval mystery. It may seem to start out slow but Parris is developing his main character, Bruno. John Lee's narration is good, however, in the first part of the book he did read too fast. It took me several times to start the book because of this. Once it got going I was totally consumed and listened every change I got. That's why I felt it deserved 5 stars. I just purchased the second book in this short series, Prophecy, which I feel can stand alone without reading this book. However, Bruno's character development in the first book is important to both. The Prophecy is as good or better than this book. I only wish he would write more about this highly intuitive, medieval detective, ex-communicated monk, Bruno.
I was a little disappointed in this story. The idea of the character, time and place was perfect for a suspenseful mystery full of religious and political intrigue. But the mystery wasn't so much a mystery as a sensational expose. I was never really convinced of the protagonist's right to be the one solving the mystery. His emotional response to the sole female character was hard to believe (although, maybe more believable if it was just the idea of the girl, rather than the actual character). Very few of the characters warranted any sympathy. Perhaps it was the use of first person narrative that caused the problem; I find it rather difficult to care about a character that has to describe his own attributes. The mystery might have worked better if the reader could have liked anyone. As for the narrator...John Lee is very skilled, but is not very emotive. Great for a non-fiction book; not so great for a mystery. His inflection and tone were too straight-forward and practical to evoke an atmosphere of mystery.
Perhaps my love of Hilary Mantel's WOLF HALL prompted me to choose this book. A historical murder mystery, it offers some glimpses of the life of Oxford in 1583, in particular the efforts to "root out" secret Catholics who are suspected of trying to overthrow Queen Elizabeth. But the writing is so lacking in style and excitement that I found myself in a continuous state of mild annoyance. Better to listen to WOLF HALL, or listen again!
I won't be listening to more of this series, even if the story is passable, because the narrator was so irritating that I almost stopped several times. I was very surprised to find out that John Lee is an award winning voice actor because I found his reading off putting. His staccato delivery made him sound like Mr. Sulu doing a bad impression of himself. I kept seeing the Enterprise instead of Oxford in my head. And his Italianate voice for Bruno was just plain annoying, when his wasn't drifting in and out of it. I was surprised to read that Lee is English. I would have sworn he was an American doing both a bad British and Italian accent. The story was okay. I might have rated if higher if I had read it rather than listened to it. But I never really warmed to Bruno and I didn't accept the killers motivation for such grisly crimes.
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