S.J. Parris is the penname for Stephanie Merrit, a British journalist. Sacrilege is her third book in the series, set in 16th century England, featuring Giordano Bruno, an Italian ex-monk now living in England. The first two novels in the series are ‘Heresy’ and ‘Prophesy’.
Even in England Giordano Bruno has enemies and when he discovers that he is being followed, he fears for his life. But when he manages to confront his pursuer, he discovers that it is Sophia, a girl he fell in love with some years ago in Oxford.
Sophia is on the run as she has been accused of murdering her brute of a husband who was an important man in Canterbury. Sophia wants Bruno to go to Canterbury to investigate the murder, and of course Bruno will do anything to help Sophia.
Being Italian, the first thing that Bruno encounters in Canterbury is suspicion and prejudice – he is constantly mistaken for a Spaniard and the Spanish are not very welcome in Tudor England. But as he continues to dig for clues, he also finds that he is being framed for murder by men who know and fear his reputation as an investigator.
The story delves into the cult of Saint Thomas Becket – the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in 1170. The cult believes that if a miracle is attributed to the saint, they can return Catholicism to England and rid it of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I. And, it looks as though Bruno is going to get in their way.
As Bruno investigates plots and murder, he eventually finds himself the victim of a much more personal plot.
This book gave an excellent look at England in the 1500s. Communities were insular and afraid of foreigners. Everyone feared the plague. Law and justice were virtually non-existent. And, those who remained Catholic still hoped to turn England back to Catholicism.
The plot was fast-paced and the characters radiated warmth. I’ll have to go back and read the first two books in the series.
Book Published 2011