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Prophecy: An Historical Thriller    by S. J. Parris order for
by S. J. Parris
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Prophecy follows Heresy as the second Giordano Bruno mystery by S. J. Parris, set in Elizabethan England. It opens in 1583, the year of the Great Conjunction, when Jupiter and Saturn align, a juxtaposition that is believed to herald the death of one age and the dawn of another. Many take this as a sign that Elizabeth I's reign will end and that Catholic Mary Stuart will be released to rule England.

Giordano Bruno's patron is King Henry III of France, at whose request the French ambassador to England, Michel de Castelnau, has taken him into the Embassy. Giordano is a cosmologist, philosopher, and writer, a former monk, and a close friend of Doctor John Dee. He originally came to England in the hope of finding the lost fifteenth book of Hermes Trismegistus, that was stolen from the learned Dee. Bruno also spies on happenings at the Embassy for Elizabeth's brilliant spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham. And he is a close friend of Sir Philip Sidney, who weds Walsingham's daughter.

As Prophecy opens, Walsingham calls on Bruno to investigate after one of Elizabeth's maids of honor is found murdered 'within a stone's throw of the queen's own privy apartments'. In one of her hands is a small wax effigy of Elizabeth I, and in the other a rosary. Walsingham naturally suspects a plot against the throne. Another maid of honor tells Bruno that the victim had recently slipped out to meet a rich and important man. When that maid also dies, Bruno feels guilty for putting her in harm's way.

Bruno soon learns that the French ambassador's manipulative young wife is a strong supporter of the Duc of Guise and Mary Stuart, and that the Spanish ambassador is active in the plot, as is Henry Howard, an enemy of Dee's. Bruno feels that Dee trusts cunning man Ned Kelley too much and is exploited by him. He works with Fowler, also an agent of Walsingham's, to uncover the truth. He is attacked himself and the killings continue. Luckily Bruno has a guardian angel watching his back.

After several close shaves, Bruno unveils an elaborate plot to place a Catholic monarch on the throne of England - and he saves Elizabeth's life. But though the mystery is solved, the elusive book long sought by Bruno and Dee, is not found. I highly recommend this series to you - it's thoroughly researched, with an engaging lead, and deeply immersed in the Elizabethan era. Watch for the third episode, Sacrilege, out very soon.

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