Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: Prophecy by S.J. Parris

Title: Prophecy
Author: S.J. Parris
Genre: Historical Mystery
Publisher: Doubleday
Published: 2011
Pages: 384

Rating: 6 out of 10

The 2nd book in the series of mysteries following Giordano Bruno, a former monk now turned detective / writer / philosopher / spy, leaves Oxford University and brings us to Whitehall Palace in London. The year is 1583, a year that astrologers proclaim will bring about great tragedy. Bruno, who is still working for the Queen's spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham, is sent to befriend and reside with the family of a suspicious French ambassador, who may or may not be plotting to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne in place of Elizabeth. Only a few nights after arriving, one of the Queen's ladies in waiting is murdered, and soon afterward, another. Bruno embarks upon a feverish search to find the killer...

I enjoyed this book in the series, and felt that it was a good continuation of the first one. We do get to know our hero Bruno a bit more as his character is filled out, which I had mentioned in my review of Heresy. Bruno is still, as a sub-plot, seeking the lost Copernicus volume, which he believes contains revolutionary secrets about philosophy and astronomy.

I enjoyed seeing more of Walsingham, who I have always thought a fascinating historical figure. And Merritt portrayed him just right, in my opinion.
Bruno also becomes a close friend of John Dee, the famed scholar, and I had to re-read the decadent descriptions of his house and library a couple times. It sounded as if my dream house was being described - beautiful books absolutely everywhere.

On the negative side, this book is very similar to the first one. I have to admit that I do often have this complaint about a lot of mystery series, because they all just seem so repetitive. People solve a mystery, the end. Book 2 - people solve a mystery, the end. Book 3...
Mystery series that I have enjoyed in the past, I realize, all have strong main characters, inventive plots (not just the same mystery every time), and a progressive plot to the series that involves a bigger picture than this and that mystery.
So far, Bruno isn't a strong enough character for me to say that he really comes alive in the stories. As for inventive plots, this one seemed like a repeat of book one, except in a different setting. Bruno is still spying on some people, and solving crimes that have religious, symbolic undertones, as people try to dissuade him from his sleuthing. As for an overarching plot that encompasses the series in its entirety, though we are only on book 2, I would guess that that isn't very existent here either. Sure, Bruno is still looking for that book, but it would have to be something bigger than that.

Yet again, I was annoyed by the females of the story, notably the red-haired lady in waiting that Bruno begins feeling attracted to after she helps him collect evidence about the killer's first victim. Unlike with Sophia of "Heresy," nothing ever actually happens with girl two. However, she still felt so very obligatory, as if the author felt that she had to throw in a pretty girl somewhere along the lines. Like Sophia, the redhead (I have forgotten her name, as you can see) is also conveniently thrown out of the story later on, though it had looked as if she was being set up to become a major character. At least her exit wasn't so tailored and ridiculous as Sophia's, though.

Despite having quite a few complaints about this book, I still enjoyed reading it. For all of my saying it was too similar to the first installment (which I hold with, nonetheless), I enjoyed the two about the same. It was quickly paced and interesting, and the musings about philosophy and astronomy and religious politics of the day were very interesting.

Perhaps I will read Bruno's next adventure, but it would have to be something new and completely different to the first two books.