Heresy  - S.J. Parris
It is 1583, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and excommunicated Italian monk Giordano Bruno is in Oxford for a debate at the university. However, Bruno is secretly at the university for another reason; he is to look for subversive Catholics on behalf of the queen’s ministers. When a fellow of Oxford’s Lincoln college is seemingly murdered, Bruno decides to investigate.

The narrator of Heresy, Giordano Bruno, is a real life historical figure. A former monk, Bruno fled the Church’s inquisition having been discovered in possession of banned reading materials. Bruno also professed revolutionary ideas about a heliocentric solar system in an infinite universe, ideas now known to be true but considered heretical at the time.

Parris has definitely done her research regarding Bruno, and many details in the novel are in fact historically accurate. This includes the humorous opening scene in which Bruno is discovered sneaking banned reading material into the privy. While Bruno did in fact travel to Oxford in the 1580s, and was in fact a spy for the queen, the murder mystery of the novel is entirely fictional.

Unfortunately, the main story is often bogged down in tedious conversations and exposition, particularly in the beginning. The actual mystery plot does not begin until almost a fourth of the way into the story, when the first murder occurs. A long conversation over a dinner at Lincoln College serves to set the story as well as introduce Bruno’s views. Despite the length, however, there is little actual character development given. Such passages in the novel instead come off as boring infodumps.

Although Heresy has a fascinating protagonist investigating a serial murder case, the novel failed to hold my interest. Aside from Giordano Bruno, the supporting cast is not very developed, and it is hard to care about the murder victims or the reason for their deaths.

A review copy was provided by the publisher.