Review: Treachery – S.J. Parris

Treachery SJ ParisSeries: Giordano Bruno 4

My version: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction Elizabethan era
Harper (HarperCollins)
First published: 2016 (this edition 2016)
(In a competition I think)
(Special edition, not for resale, for World Book Night 2016)

From the cover:

August, 1583. Giordano Bruno, a heretic fleeing the Inquisition, finds a new life working as a spy for Sir Francis Walsingham.

Along with his friend, Sir Philip Sidney, Bruno travels to Plymouth on the Queen’s behalf. There, they meet Sir Francis Drake, who is preparing to launch a daring expedition against the Spanish, which could turn the tide of war.

Unbeknownst to Bruno, however, Sidney plans to stowaway with Drake’s fleet and return a hero – dragging Bruno with him to the New World. But when a murder occurs aboard Drake’s own ship, fear and suspicion grip the fleet and threaten to abort the expedition before it begins.

Navigating the jealousies and loyalties of the crew, Bruno learns that someone with a deadly grudge is shadowing his investigation.

Tracking the killer through Plymouth’s menacing backstreets, he uncovers some of the darkest secrets the city is harbouring. Failure will come at the highest cost – not just for Bruno, but all of England…

Treachery SJ ParrisAnd you never knew Plymouth had menacing backstreets, eh?

Well, apart from one of the worst, most virulent infestations of raised eyebrows this side of an Anthony Riches novel (not to forget a potentially severe outbreak of pursed lips as well), Treachery wasn’t actually half bad. You (well, mainly me) can imagine a meeting where they say “We need to make sure we appeal to the Hist Fic market. We need to make sure that when an HF fan picks it up, they don’t think they’re being tricked into buying a ‘proper’ novel of some sort. “Hey! I though this was supposed to be Hist. Fic.! But no one has raised or even arched eyebrow or pursed their lips yet! What’s going on?!!’  “So we need you to sprinkle some of that magic HF dust over it.” And away she goes to liberally does the manuscript with eyebrows and pursed lips. That’s exactly how it happens, trust me…

All that said, I guess I wasn’t expecting any ‘battle calm’ – though that may not have gone amiss – in a novel about Sir Francis Drake, especially as the story takes place onboard the ships anchored in Plymouth harbour, and back in various taverns, hotels, brothels and shady backstreets of ye olde Plymouth town. The characters are fine, the main man Bruno is an interesting one, given his background and therefore his ability to look discerningly and dispassionately at the various ruffed – and ruffled – Englishmen on show. Sir Philip Sidney rings a bell, though I’m not sure where from, and the general feeling for the life, if you can call it that, and conditions of various strata of English society at the time, is convincingly done – from the little I know of the period, mainly Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs, by Hugh Bicheno, life on board ship was largely even worse – disease-wise at least – for the average poor man in the gutter, than the conditions they had to endure on land.

I seem to have won this one at some point in the recent past, and other than looking at it a couple of times and wondering if I shouldn’t get started on it, I knew absolutely nothing about S.J. Parris, Giordano Bruno and/or Stephanie Merritt (who S.J. Parris is in real life, apparently). I was irritated for a moment or three, that I now find it is (something like) the fifth book in this Giordano Bruno series, but while it was very good, I’m not champing at the bit to get on to another book series just now. Actually though, that maybe because the book was very self-contained, so to speak. You are told, or reminded, of events that the main two characters have gone through in the past, but you never feel like you should have read the previous four books to get the most out of this. So I could well see me buying one here and there, the next time I’m on for some 16th Century skulduggery.

You can buy Treachery from The Book Depository

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