S.J. Parris
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Buy *Prophecy: An Historical Thriller* by S.J. Parris online

Prophecy: An Historical Thriller
S.J. Parris
384 pages
May 2011
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Queen Elizabeth 1 and the Italian monk Giordano Bruno have a distinct affinity: both have been excommunicated for heresy and declared enemies of the Catholic Church for their ideas. Recently enlisted as a spy by Sir Francis Walsingham, Her Majesty‘s principal secretary of state and chief intelligencer, Bruno finds himself caught between the needs of the monarch and the burgeoning Catholic resistance movement.

Set in 1583, Prophecy begins as Bruno and his philosopher friend John Dee prepare for The Great Conjunction, an astronomical event of dire consequences. Hell itself is about to be unleashed on this tumultuous world in which the dark arts dominate and cunning, duplicitous mediums fight for prominence in a country where the wars of religion continue to fuel the fire against the Virgin Queen. The fiercely stalwart Elizabeth has made it very clear: she will never waver in her Protestant convictions and refuses to be swayed by her country’s Catholic minority.

While Catholics plot to bring Mary Stuart to the throne, Elizabeth herself leans openly on divination and conjurers like John Dee. A shrewd politician who courts controversy, Elizabeth must also be wary of men like Henry Howard, the senior member of the most powerful Catholic family. Wracked with bitterness, Henry has sought revenge against the Tudor line ever since the execution of his eldest brother, the Duke of Norfolk, for treason.

The setting sun stains the sky the color of blood and the land is full of fears that Elizabeth's “vast protestant experiment” is nearing its end. Bruno has no choice but to enter the conflict, becoming part of Walsingham’s network of spies and informers and the queen’s first line of defense against the myriad Catholic plots to take her life.

Staying as a guest of French ambassador Monsieur Castelnau, Bruno is a silent witness to the traffic of letters and gifts to Mary Stuart. The trusting Castelnau provides a haven for England’s most influential and restless Catholic lords who still have ties to Mary’s supporters in France, but Marie, Castelnau’s ruthless wife, remains steadfast in her devotion to the Duke of Guise and his cause. Marie's viciousness and steady resolve stands in stark counterpoint to Bruno, who finds himself jockeying for favor in court of Richmond Palace.

When Cecily Ashe, one of Her Majesty’s maids, is brutally strangulated, Bruno is thrust into the search for the girl’s killer. He gropes for connections, sure that Cecily's murder belies a degree of planning designed to inspire fear. Cecily’s friend Abigail has been guarding the girl’s most dangerous secret, but the stink of accusation takes a long time to clear. Abigail's frightened confessions lead Bruno to Arundel House and the powerful Howard family. The Queen's days are numbered and the sovereignty of England threatened when Bruno uncovers a French invasion plot led by Sir Henry Howard.

Parris's compelling combination of history with drama is always balanced as she instills her hero with a generous handful of good fortune. With the key to the murder lying in the most intimate chambers of the Elizabethan court, Bruno is caught up in a rabid whirlwind of politics and religion, his own life placed on the edge as the possibility of civil war draws ever closer.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2011

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