Written by S. J. Parris
Review by Kathryn Johnson

Take a devious plot, a clutch of spies, a dash of counterspies, and set the story in Elizabethan England where politics and religion daily clash with deadly results. What do you have? A recipe for a gripping and sophisticated historical thriller that will challenge both the reader and repudiated monk Giordano Bruno to uncover the traitor. In Prophecy, the puzzle that Bruno (undercover agent for Elizabeth’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham) must initially solve is: who has done in one of Queen Elizabeth’s young maids, while she was mysteriously dressed as a boy and within the seemingly safe walls of the castle? But the tangled web involves more than what first appears to be a murder of passion. Astrological symbols have been carved into the victim’s flesh, and rumors of black magic swirl within the stone walls of the queen’s home. The ingenious Bruno has his own theories – which include a conspiracy to replace the queen with her rival Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, an event foretold in a mysterious prophecy. But he lacks the proof he needs to convince the queen she needs protection from a menace within her own court.

This is an impressive second novel in the historical thriller genre from Parris (the first being an equally fine effort in Heresy). The author subtly invokes the complex visual and tense emotional atmosphere of 1583. Historical figures walk alongside fictional characters, and all are exquisitely and believably defined. It’s easy for the reader to feel transported into this dangerous world. Parris’ crisp dialogue and brilliant observations create a highly readable tale that will hold readers in suspense until the very last page. This novel is, so far, my favorite of all I’ve read this year. It’s just that good.