I had been enjoying the Giordano Bruno series by S. J. Parris in audiobooks. Volume 4, Treachery, finally available in the US in 2019, after apparently being released much earlier in the UK, is still not available in audio in my library, so I decided to read it instead.
Maybe it’s because I read it instead of listening to it, but I found it slightly less enjoyable than the first three books. I found it a bit slow to really start. The whole book could really have been shorter than 540 pages!
Though as usual, the author did a great job at setting up the context and the characters.
This time we are at sea. Well, almost!
“Summer, 1585: As English ships are held captive in Spain, fear mounts of an Invincible Armada, built by King Philip II, and intended to invade English shores.
Sir Francis Drake prepares to embark on an expedition by royal commission to cross the Atlantic and seize major Spanish ports, diverting Philip’s American treasure supplies to Queen Elizabeth.
Giordano Bruno, radical philosopher and spy, accompanies his friend Sir Philip Sidney to Plymouth to oversee Drake’s departure. Unbeknownst to Bruno, Sidney intends to join the mission – and he wants Bruno to go too. But when a ship captain is brutally murdered, and Drake’s life threatened, it becomes clear that someone plans to destroy the expedition before it begins. Bruno and Sidney hunt for the killer, but are they being lured into a trap? And when Drake’s young wife and her cousin arrive, Bruno and Sidney find themselves thrown into an unexpected rivalry.”
It was actually a bit frustrating that it was in the context of the Armada, and power over the water, but the ships have to wait for the murder to be solved before ever leaving.
But I did enjoy all the details pointing to the historical importance of that conflict between England and Spain, and how the knowledge of the maritime landscape was key for the powers of the time. The whole plot was thus totally on target for the period featured.
And there were plenty of major red herrings.
Plus, Parris’s descriptions can be gems, like this one around London:
Ahead the Thames gleams like beaten metal as clouds scud across the ace of the sun and their shadows follow over the water; in this light, you could almost forget it is a soup of human filth.
Houses that look beyond repair crowd together in dark, narrow lanes, leaning crookedly against one another like rotten teeth.
Now, the plot is actually connected to a mysterious Gnostic Gospel. Giordano Bruno has thus plenty of chances to use his scholarly knowledge, for instance with the Coptic language, and also his skills at deduction.
I’m not sure if Giordano Bruno and Francis Drake ever met, but Giordano’s friend Sir Philip Sidney had some connections with Drake, so even if they never met, it was a smart idea of plot. Yes, most characters in this book did exist.
Volume 5, Conspiracy, was published in 2016 in the UK. Only three libraries in my State have it, I’ll be using inter library loan for it.
VERDICT: Smart historical novel, but too long, and too slow in getting the real plot going.
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In full compliance with FTC Guidelines, I received this ebook free of charge from the publisher through Netgalley. I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.