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Heresy (Giordano Bruno, #1)
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(Giordano Bruno #1)

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  8,541 ratings  ·  898 reviews
Masterfully blending true events with fiction, this blockbuster historical thriller delivers a page-turning murder mystery set on the sixteenth-century Oxford University campus.

Giordano Bruno was a monk, poet, scientist, and magician on the run from the Roman Inquisition on charges of heresy for his belief that the Earth orbits the sun and that the universe is infinite. Th
Hardcover, 435 pages
Published February 23rd 2010 by Doubleday Books (first published February 2nd 2010)
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3.73  · 
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 ·  8,541 ratings  ·  898 reviews

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I couldn't read this book without always comparing it with John Crowley's Aegypt tetralogy. The works aren't similar at all except they both prominently feature Giordano Bruno. Crowley made Bruno into a full character and spent a good deal of time looking into the things that Bruno believed and studied. Parris just kind of throws them out there and the more interesting facets of the Nolan's studies are kind of lost and only get used to give a feeling of historicity and color to the story.

I'm bei
Nov 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Giordano Bruno was one of the 16th century's most erudite visionaries, a Dominican monk who fled the Church after being accused of heresy. His cosmological theories went beyond Copernicus's heliocentric visions; Bruno was the first European to conceptualize the universe as a vast continuum populated by many galaxies. He was also a visionary writer on the concept of memory and avid scholar of mysticism.

Naturally, his curious mind made him very unpopular with Catholic authorities, struggling as t
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
Jan 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Historical murder mystery buffs
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 20, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
******Full Disclosure**** This was an ARC copy, that was received through the Goodreads Advance program. I am grateful for the chance to have read this novel, which I might not have purchased otherwise.
Written by S.J Parris, a pseudonym for "a journalist for various newspapers and magazines, including the Observer and the Guardian", named Stephanie Merritt, this is an historical novel that takes substance from the life story of a Roman Catholic excommunicate priest named Filipo Giordano Bruno
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a very good read. An intelligent, thoughtfully conceived thriller that combines the battle between Catholicism and Protestantism in 1500's England, a series of strange murders at Oxford college, and the suspicion of anyone different that leads to unfortunate choices and tragic results.

Giordano Bruno is a runaway from his Dominican monastery in Italy. He fled just ahead of the Inquisition for the crime of possessing and reading books on the "forbidden" list, such as the theories of Coper
Mar 17, 2013 rated it liked it
The author has done a commendable job in writing an enjoyable mystery set in the Tudor era, not my favorite time period by any means and which I try to avoid if possible. I almost skipped this novel but am glad I did not. I liked its involving others than the royal family and its immediate courtiers. This novel gave some flavor of the academic community of Oxford University of that period. The notable Italian astronomer, Giordano Bruno, a firm believer in the Copernican heliocentric theory of th ...more
Mar 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
The historical figure Giordano Bruno has fascinated me for years. An accomplished man of many disciplines, a former monk who defied the church in his dedication to the truth at a time when such things got you tortured and brutally killed. When I saw a well-marketed historical thriller was coming out starring Bruno, I couldn't wait.

Imagine my disappointment then when I found myself flipping through pages and skipping sections just to find out what eventually happens and be done with the book. Wh
Jun 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a bad story at all, being a murder mystery set in Lincolns College, Oxford during the Elizabethan era and featuring Giordano Bruno – ex Catholic priest and philosopher, who arrives at Oxford alongside Philip Sydney who is accompanying and entertaining a Polish high ranging visitor to the court. For his part, Bruno has also been charged with seeking evidence of Catholicism at Oxford University. What he doesn’t bargain for, is a high body count of Fellows at the University. The story i ...more
Feb 18, 2018 marked it as dnf
DNFed at 15%
Two things rubbed me the wrong way in this book:
- The hero's spouting beliefs that were ahead of his time without explanation: is he a scientist? Why is he so sure that that the universe is vast and there are more solar systems?
- The narrator's bad Italian accent.

Kate Forsyth
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
I love a good historical murder mystery, particularly one set in one of my favourite eras of history. Heretic is set during Elizabethan times, quite possibly the most popular of periods. The novel features a true life heretic monk as its amateur detective, this being Giordano Bruno who was sought by the Roman Inquisition for his belief that the Earth orbits the sun and that the universe is infinite. He travels to Oxford in 1576 to take part in a religious debate, but gets caught up in a series o ...more
Karen Brooks
Jan 28, 2013 rated it liked it
I give this 3.5 stars - I just couldn't when I went to rate it! Sorry.
This was a strange book in so many ways – and I mean that more positively than to infer the opposite – strange can be good, right? Ostensibly a historical novel that, while a work of fiction features real people – the main one being the lead character, the excommunicate Roman priest and humanist philosopher, Giordano Bruno – it also uses quite modern if literary language to tell its Elizabethan tale of murder, mystery, spies,
First Sentence: The outer door was thrown open with a crash that resounded along the passage, and the floorboards shook with the purposeful marching of several pairs of feet.

Philosopher and mathematician Giordano Bruno has come to Oxford, supposedly to debate on the theories of Copernicus. However, Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster to Queen Elizabeth I, has sent him to seek out Catholics who seek to assassinate the Queen. He did not expect having to solve a series of murders where the victim has
Mar 11, 2010 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Joan by: Amazon Vine ARC
This much is true: Giordano Bruno did go to Oxford in the spring of 1583, in the party of the Prince Palatine Albert Laski and Sir Philip Sidney, where he did engage in a debate on the Copernican theory.

On this thread, S.J. Parks (pseudonym of journalist Stephanie Merritt) has hung her murder mystery. The book opens as Bruno flees his monastery with the Inquisition nipping at his heels. We next see him on his way to Oxford, having traveled far both geographically and socially. By now he had beco
Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
We first meet our protagonist Giordano Bruno on the privy, reading a forbidden text in a monastery in Naples in the 1500s.

Unfortunately he is discovered, and Bruno's unabated desire for forbidden knowledge and the alleged sin of pride makes him a target for the Inquisition and he is forced to flee Naples.

On the run for years, he agrees to go to Oxford in 1583 to work as a spy for Sir Francis Walsingham to root out traitors to Queen Elizabeth I. Those practising Catholicism must do so in secret,
The frame work of this whodunnit is historically accurate. Giordano Bruno, humanist, philosopher, Copernican did come under the attention of the inquisition and was excommunicated for reading Erasmus and other books on the Index. He was eventually executed by the inquisition for his unorthodox beliefs. He did spend 2 years in England and travel to Oxford. There are suggestions that he was recruited by Walsingham, Elizabeth I's master of spies. It was a time of anti-Catholicism, with Elizabeth ex ...more
Nov 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book really blew me away - I was definitely caught up in it by the end, huddled under the blankets reading long after I should have been asleep because I just HAD to finish it. The writing style is rich and detailed, and it's clear that quite a bit of research and historical knowledge has gone into the writing of the book. I'm not an expert on this period of British history, but what I do know about it rings true, and the rest of it certainly feels true in the telling of the story. I did no ...more
Jennifer Stephens
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
After I began reading this book at B&N in the cafe I really got into it (it’s a page turner) and knew i was not going to have a chance to return to the store for a few weeks so i downloaded it to my nook and finished it there.

It was a great read. Excellent pacing throughout the book, interesting and suspenseful plot – set in the old world of Europe and weaving in historical details about the Catholic war on science and the Protestant war on Catholics.
Lolly's Library
Meticulously researched and exquisitely written, Heresy is like a boat ride down the Thames of Elizabethan England: leisurely and immersive, allowing one to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of a slowly unfolding panorama. For such skillful writing, the book deserves 5 stars. However, for personal reading enjoyment, I could only give the novel 3 stars. I have to stress, this is my problem and doesn't reflect at all on the author's writing or storytelling skills, but that leisurely pace, esp ...more
Ant Koplowitz
Sep 11, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
"Heresy" is yet another take on the current obsession with the Tudor period by publishers of popular fiction. S.J. Parris introduces us to Giordano Bruno, former catholic monk and now an itinerant academic who wanders across the universities and courts of Europe. Due to his connections with a member of the English aristocracy he is introduced to Walsingham (Elizabeth's secretary and spy master). For some reason Walsingham takes a shine to Bruno, and it's while visiting Oxford University for appa ...more
Jun 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book had really great potential, but lacked suspense and momentum. It takes place at Oxford during Queen Elizabeth I's reign. Former monk Giordano Bruno, who has been charged with heresy by the Catholic Church for his heliocentric views, is an intellectual guest at Oxford. He is also a reluctant agent of for the Church of England and is encouraged to report on any Catholic sympathizers who may be a threat to the queen and her realm. When murders occur in the college, Bruno takes it upon him ...more
May 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Well, this book was a downer. I don't know what I expected. Anyhow, it was very interesting and very exciting. It's a fascinating part of history. Unfortunately, it's a part of history where everyone kinda sucks, hence the depressingness. But I'll definitely keep reading the series. I love Bruno, and I'm anxious to find out what happens to him, although I know from history that it's not going to end well.
Elizabeth S
The best word I can come up with to describe this book is weird.

To be fair, I’m not really a murder mystery fan. The whole reason I read Heresy is because, when I couldn’t pick what to read next, I agreed to let a friend of mine find a crazy-sounding book in the library and just go ahead and read whatever it was.

This was what she found, and let me tell you, it was certainly a wild ride.

It tells the story of a young monk, Giordano Bruno (a real historical figure), who flees his monastery after ge
Helen Carolan
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another excellent series it's taken me too long to get to. In the first of the series Bruno is sent to Oxford by queen Elizabeth 1st spymaster Francis Walsingham to root out heretics. But Bruno has another reason for wanting to travel to Oxford. He's on the hunt for an old book and believes it's in Oxford. While there a series of grisly murders take place and Bruno finds himself at the center of the investigation whilst trying to maintain his cover. Terrific read.
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘I was not afraid to die for my beliefs, but not until I had determined which beliefs were worth dying for.’

In a memorable prologue, we first encounter Giordano Bruno in the monastery privy as he surreptitiously reads a forbidden book by Erasmus. Once discovered, and to escape the Inquisition, he flees from Italy. Giordano Bruno was also a believer in Copernican cosmology, and it is his trip to England in 1583 to debate his cosmological theory with John Underhill, the Rector of Lincoln College a
Jason Golomb
Aug 17, 2011 rated it liked it
This book has all the makings of a terrific historical mystery:
1) Great time and place - England during the Elizabethan era
2) Great contextual and cultural undercurrent - Catholicism v. Protestantism; and a growing world view that's building momentum towards the Renaissance.
3) Cool lead character - Giordano Bruno, a real life mystic/priest/heretic/scientist

Unfortunately, the author wasn't able to build upon this foundation with an interesting enough story. The three factors above all scream MAJO
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
More like 3.5+. In the spirit of Name of the Rose and Instance of the Fingerpost (which set the bar quite high for historical mysteries based on serious, often life and (grisly) death disputes over philosophy and religion), the plot of Heresy has its basis on the Catholic/Church of England divide in late 16th century England. Thrown into that is the character of 1st person narrator and unwitting P.I. Giordano Bruno, an excommunicated Dominican monk (who dared to espouse Copernican theory, and ha ...more
Feb 07, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a fairly easy reading book, although it was a bit slow to start. The characters weren't particularity interesting, but Parris manages to be fairly even handed in making most of them well rounded, if boring. I'll probably read the next book in the series because I already own it, but I wouldn't go looking for more from this author otherwise.
Deborah Pickstone
What an excellent writer! Oh happy day when I find another great storyteller.....I was glued to this debut, happy in the knowledge there are more to follow.

Bruno is not a hero but no coward either; a man of principle whose judgement can go astray and who makes some faulty choices. My only complaint is that he should have hired poor Cobbett at the end; he was shamefully treated and so well drawn I would have liked to see him reappear in the series. He was another man of principle, after all.
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Set in Elizabethan England during a time of religious fervor and conspiracy, this book is a fun murder mystery set in Oxford, featuring an excommunicated monk and a series of people with questionable motivations, godly and otherwise. My only complaint was that the lure of a debate around the Copernican celestial model, the contents of heretical books, and possibly an interaction with John Dee were dangled before me and did not deliver. I also had a hard time trying to keep track of all the Oxfor ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd give it 3.5 stars.
I love the time period and the real life character of Giordano Bruno, and the premise behind this book. However the book itself was a little disappointing to me as it dragged at times and struggled to hold my interest. This may have been because I read it very piecemeal while I had a busy time and I might have enjoyed it better if I'd read it in bigger chunks.
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Goodreads Librari...: Change title 5 22 Sep 30, 2016 11:56AM  
Ancient & Medieva...: MARCH 2014 (Group Read 2): Heresy by S.J. Parris 134 97 Jan 03, 2015 07:30PM  

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Pseudonym for author Stephanie Merritt

S.J. Parris began reviewing books for national newspapers while she was reading English literature at Queens' College, Cambridge. After graduating, she went on to become Deputy Literary Editor of The Observer in 1999. She continues to work as a feature writer and critic for the Guardian and the Observer and from 2007-2008 she curated and produced the Talks an

Other books in the series

Giordano Bruno (6 books)
  • Prophecy (Giordano Bruno, #2)
  • Sacrilege (Giordano Bruno, #3)
  • Treachery (Giordano Bruno, #4)
  • Conspiracy (Giordano Bruno, #5)
  • Execution (Giordano Bruno, #6)
“I do not believe that any book should be denied to the man who possesses the wisdom to understand it, Bruno, but that does not mean I am confused about where truth lies.” 17 likes
“It is strange the way that someone who wants to find you guilty can start to make you believe in your own guilt, even when you know you are innocent. I was afraid I would condemn myself my mistake.” 15 likes
More quotes…