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Sacrilege    by S. J. Parris order for
by S. J. Parris
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Sacrilege follows Prophecy and Heresy as the third in a thoroughly researched series of Elizabethan thrillers by S. J. Parris. The series star is Giordano Bruno, a cosmologist, philosopher, writer, and former monk. He is a close friend of both Doctor John Dee (who has left England as this episode opens) and of the powerfully connected Sir Philip Sidney.

Bruno's patron, King Henry III of France, asked Michel de Castelnau, French ambassador to England, to host him in the Embassy. There he spies on burgeoning plots for Elizabeth's brilliant spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham. Bruno originally came to England seeking the lost fifteenth book of Hermes Trismegistus, stolen from the learned Dee. He actually lays his hands on it this time, only to lose it once more.

It's the summer of 1584. William of Orange has just been assassinated in the Netherlands and there are rumors of the plague reaching London. Bruno notices that he's being shadowed. Capturing his follower, he discovers a young woman, Sophia Underhill, whom he loved and left in Oxford. Well educated and of an independent mind, Sophia reveals that she was forced to marry an older man, Sir Edward Kingsley, in Canterbury. He abused her badly. Now he's been murdered and she is the chief suspect.

Sophia (who now calls herself Kit and is disguised as a boy) asks Bruno to return with her to Canterbury and clear her name. There she stays with Huguenots who helped her before. Bruno resides with Harry Robinson, an agent of Walsingham's keeping an eye on those suspected of disloyalty to the queen. There are also rumors of a cult of Saint Thomas Becket, the Catholic archbishop murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in the twelfth century on the orders of Queen Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII.

Of course, Bruno gets into trouble in Canterbury. Always the outsider (it's 'not a good time to be a foreigner in England'), he's a natural scapegoat when there are further deaths, and is arrested for murder himself. He falls in love with Sophia all over again, but wonders if his feelings are returned. And he learns that several boys have gone missing in the area; could this relate to his investigation, or to a miracle attributed to Thomas Becket?

Though Bruno ties it all together by the end and foils another devious plot against the English crown, it's by no means a happy ending for him personally. He has unfinished business, which will certainly lead him into more adventure and intrigue. I look forward to reading about it, and highly recommend this series to anyone who appreciates a well researched historical thriller.

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