Sacrilege by S.J. Parris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Our hero barely escapes the adventures to be found in this volume of the continuing series with his life intact.
Travelling to the city of Canterbury, and to its Cathedral where Thomas Beckett was murdered, Giordano Bruno, a former Dominican monk and now a spy for Sir Francis Walsingham, investigates what he initially thought to be a simple murder of the local magistrate. His reasons for doing so, however, are not for the sake of true justice, but rather because a woman he first encountered in a previous volume had been accused of the murder, for the killing of her husband, before fleeing.
Guided as much by his feelings for the woman as by any sense of justice, Bruno soon discovers that there is more happening in the city of Canterbury than the murder of the local magistrate. There exists within the city treason and sacrilege afoot alongside treachery, conspiracy and betrayal. Along the way to unravelling the murder – which only brings heartache for Bruno – there are more murders as well as the uncovering of other shocking crimes.
At the heart of the motivation for the conspiracy is a desire to restore Elizabethan England to the ‘one true Church’ (the Church of Rome) and to replace Elizabeth with Mary of Scotland. The closer Bruno gets to the nub of the mystery, the more determined the conspirators are to stop him by any means. Accused of the murders himself, Bruno is arrested and arraigned at the local assizes. He escapes the gallows only because of the intervention of his friends at court.
In the end, those responsible for most of the murders are brought to justice although others – including the woman Bruno sought to help – escape from Canterbury and thus the responsibility for their actions.
This volume in the series provides an insight into provincial life of Elizabethan England, particularly of life in those places where there was a still a great attachment to some of the practices of ‘popery’. The master narrative, and the series narrative arc, are well executed and delivered by Parris, and it was a delight to be drawn deeper into the happenings of the later Elizabethan age.
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