Okay, I’ll confess I read this trilogy out of order, and–worse–I reviewed them out of order, but I still highly recommend them if, like me, you’re an afficionado of good historical mysteries. Even more so since I just learned that this “trilogy” is about to have a sequel. Anyway…
In this third novel, it is now 1584 and our hero Giordano Bruno is being stalked by someone through the streets of London. He has made a lot of enemies in Parris’ previous two books, and not all of them got what was coming to them. Bruno is still pursuing that elusive book which he thinks will answer all his missing questions about the universe, is still lamenting his lost love Sophia from book 2, and is still in thrall to Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster Walsingham, who provides him with the funds he needs to live his cherished life as a scholar/philosopher while risking that life regularly on Walsingham’s espionage missions against the “papist conspiracy.”
This time, the setting is Canterbury, where Archbishop Thomas Becket had been martyred back in the 12th century for his refusal to yield to Henry II on the role of the church in secular affairs. The hidden bones of Becket are a rallying point for anti-Elizabeth forces, it appears, and Bruno is sent to root them out. But Bruno has another, more personal mission in that city. It turns out his stalker was none other than his beloved Sophia, who was married off to a vicious and murderous old man living in Canterbury, and then got blamed for his murder. She is a fugitive and comes to Bruno in the guise of a boy to seek his help in clearing her name. He agrees to undertake both missions–Walsingham’s and Sophia’s–and brings the disguised woman back to Canterbury with him in hope of winning her love. Boy, is our hero in for some surprises!
The story rapidly picks up the pace, and Bruno is soon embroiled in a battle with evil monks and racist mobs while discovering hidden crypts and murdered children and ending up in jail and facing execution on more than one occasion. Even worse for our hero is not knowing who he can trust, whether the old Walsingham agent embedded in Canterbury with whom Bruno is sharing his mission, the Huguenot family reluctantly hiding Sophia from the Canterbury authorities, or even Sophia who knows more than she is telling.
Needless to say, Parris gives us a satisfying and unconventional conclusion to this third book, while leaving us panting for her as-yet unpublished fourth. Stay tuned.