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Heresy (Abridged) Audiobook, by S. J. Parris Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: S. J. Parris Narrator: John Lee Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Series: The Giordano Bruno Series Release Date: February 2010 ISBN: 9780307714305
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,369 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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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. This alone could have got him burned at the stake, but he was also a student of occult philosophies and magic. In S. J. Parris's gripping novel, Bruno's pursuit of this rare knowledge brings him to London, where he is unexpectedly recruited by Queen Elizabeth I and is sent undercover to Oxford University on the pretext of a royal visitation. Officially Bruno is to take part in a debate on the Copernican theory of the universe; unofficially, he is to find out whatever he can about a Catholic plot to overthrow the queen. His mission is dramatically thrown off course by a series of grisly murders and a spirited and beautiful young woman. As Bruno begins to discover a pattern in these killings, he realizes that no one at Oxford is who he seems to be. Bruno must attempt to outwit a killer who appears obsessed with the boundary between truth and heresy. Like The Dante Club and The Alienist, this clever, sophisticated, exceptionally enjoyable novel is written with the unstoppable narrative propulsion and stylistic flair of the very best historical thrillers. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • Nevertheless, Bruno commands our attention and our sympathy as any likable heretic should. "I hate no-one," he declares as his own death seems imminent, "I want only to be left in peace to understand the mysteries of the universe in my own way." To which the murderer sneeringly replies, "Ah. Tolerance." By this stage, the plot has -- perhaps belatedly -- broken out of claustrophobic Oxford and made for the countryside, where the long-anticipated galloping hooves finally arrive.
  • The philosopher's subsequent adventures in Italy and France are revealed throughout the novel as intermittent recollections, but the main plot, which takes place in 1583, is planted firmly on English ground. There the young visionary accepts a more earthly mission. At the behest of Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth's spymaster, Bruno reluctantly agrees to use his time at Oxford University -- where he has been invited to debate the rector -- to investigate a suspected papist conspiracy against the Protestant crown.
  • No man in Oxford is what he seems," one scholar declares. Nor is Bruno, of course. We soon learn that he is in Oxford not primarily to win a philosophical debate or to expose papists but to find "the lost book of the Egyptian high priest Hermes Trismegistus." This book, the 15th volume of a fabled Hermetic treatise, reportedly contains "the lost wisdom of the Egyptians, a secret that could destroy the authority of the Christian church" by revealing "the secret of knowing the Divine Mind."
  • Parris, an economical writer, keeps the mysticism in check as she portrays Bruno, with his sly, agile intelligence, encountering the dark, introverted world of Oxford, where fear and suspicion prevail. Foul weather and dank courtyards, both vividly described, conceal not only dissent, it turns out, but murder. First the college sub-rector is killed by a half-starved wolfhound, unleashed by an unseen hand. Then, as subsequent murders terrorize the college, the rector asks Bruno to investigate, a task that complicates not only his earlier mission but also his involvement with the rector's beautiful and intellectually rebellious daughter.
  • The fact that each gruesome murder is apparently inspired by the executions depicted in John Foxe's "Actes and Monuments," a chronicle of Protestant martyrdom, hints at a papist killer. Or is this merely a ruse? Cryptic clues accumulate as Bruno is drawn into an underground world of hooded priests, secret Masses and outlaw romance.
    The final showdown, like many other dramatic moments in the novel, recalls similar scenes in countless adventure novels; and Parris's dialogue -- courtly one moment and modern the next -- often seems unmoored from the novel's era.
  • The latest example of this thriving subgenre is "Heresy," by S.J. Parris (the pseudonym of British writer Stephanie Merritt), a vigorous philosophical thriller that wastes no time getting to the point. "They have sent for the Father Inquisitor," a desperate monk whispers to his cellmate. "There is no time to lose." Along with this rallying cry -- the first of many -- we can practically hear the galloping of hooves and the creaking of thumbscrews.
  • The monk in question is Giordano Bruno, the 16th-century Neapolitan philosopher who was finally burned at the stake for his belief in an infinite, Copernican universe. (The actual Bruno was a Dominican friar. "Heresy" ends well before his execution, although a planned sequel may take us there.) We meet our hero in 1576, in the monastery's latrine, where he has retreated to read Erasmus's forbidden "Commentaries." Discovered by his superiors, he is soon on the run, making first for "the lion's maw" of Rome. "I was not afraid to die for my beliefs," he asserts, "but not until I had determined which beliefs were worth dying for."
  • “HERESY is a must-read for every fan of historical thrillers. S. J. Parris transports the reader back to an extraordinary time in history by mobilizing fascinating details, suspense, and fully drawn characters. Giordano Bruno turns out to be that rare hero, charismatic and nuanced enough to impel an encore, and to leave us asking for more from the gifted Parris. Matthew Pearl, New York Times bestselling author of The Poe Shadow and The Dante Club

    "HERESY has everything - intrigue, mystery, excellent history and haunting sense of place.  The beginning of a wonderful new detective series.
  • "Heresy is a riveting read. Rich in both historical detail and ingenious twists, S. J. Parris has created a character in Giordano Bruno that will endure. A true rival to C. J. Sansom. Sam Bourne, bestselling author of The Righteous Men

    “Fascinating . . . The period is incredibly vivid and the story utterly gripping. Cadfael can't hold a candle to this.

  • “A rich, dark and utterly gripping tale, paced to perfection and populated with a glorious cast of characters.
    Mark Mills, bestselling author of The Savage Garden and Amagansett
  • Parris interweaves historical fact with psychological insight as Bruno, a humanist dangerously ahead of his time, begins his quest to light the fire of enlightenment in Europe. Starred PW
  • “The murders stack up, the pace becomes helter-skelter and the action overloaded as Bruno, in pursuit of a corrupt Jesuit priest, confronts endless perils before justice is finally and bloodily served. Spirited storytelling, an appealing sleuth and a cool, mutilated villain will lead readers to hope this is the launch of a series. Kirkus
  • From The Washington Post
  • If proliferation is a sign of health, then the most vigorous member of the historical novel species must surely be the religious thriller. We know what to expect of these ecclesiastical romps: Sadistic clerics, heroic visionaries, ancient texts, torture chambers and a sprinkling of Latin are guaranteed whether the turmoil being depicted is the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Inquisition or some obscure schism.

Listener Reviews

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  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Meredith | 2/3/2014

    " I listened to this book on my iPod and found it intriguing as well as disturbing. The story takes place during the 1585, mostly at Oxford University in England. During this time England was approaching one of the greatest crises in its history. Queen Elizabeth, excommunicated by the Pope for her refusal to return the Church of England to Rome was under threat from all Catholic powers. To read further check out Amazon for a review by Edward Rutherford. I highly recommend this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Harriet | 2/2/2014

    " This was not my normal type of book, but it was super engaging and I definitely want to read more in the series... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Brandy | 1/20/2014

    " Plot was alright, a little disappointed at the ending...I guess I thought there would be a lot more intrigue/drama when the killer was discovered but it was all very haphazard and anticlimactic. Not a waste of time to read but it's definitely not on my re-read list. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sarah | 1/19/2014

    " Loved this. If you like C.J. Sansom, this will work for you, too. Looking forward to the next ones. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Debbie | 1/4/2014

    " I don't usually pick up historical fiction,mysteries or series books, but this looked interesting--and I wasn't disappointed! I do like first novels. Giordano Bruno is on the run from the Holy Roman Inquisition, he becomes a spy and comes upon several murders. I hope he has more adventures. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marcie | 12/11/2013

    " Interesting story but too slow. Did not give me the urgency to turn the page. Lacked momentum. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Glenda | 12/3/2013

    " Lost respect for this book when the subtitle read "An historical thriller". "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jennifer | 10/7/2013

    " Very slow going at first, but picked up nicely for the last third of the book. I was pleasantly surprised by a few of the plot twists in the end. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lwalling | 4/16/2012

    " A first attempt. Pretty amazing escapes from situations and an unsettling and valid question asked at the end. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Hilary | 1/29/2012

    " Giorgdano Bruno was a real historical figure and he did visit Oxford. He was excommunicated for reading Erasmus, a heresy. In solving a series of murders while at Oxford, Bruno comes to realize that heresy is not restricted to Italy and that England has its own form of religious Inquisition. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary | 11/30/2011

    " Despite the book's length, I really liked it. It seemed to capture Elizabeth I England. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jill | 8/20/2011

    " Well written story of intrigue in the Elizabethan era "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cupoftea | 7/2/2011

    " S. J. Parris's Heresy was a good read. It was slow in the beginning but worth hanging in there. It takes place in Oxford for the most part after starting out in Italy. If you like things Elizabethan and the strange ideas about science you'll like this. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Barak | 5/14/2011

    " good story and characters, but something was missing--a little bland "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lee | 5/11/2011

    " A first class historical mystery. I look forward to reading the second in the series. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 theresa | 5/11/2011

    " Not as good as the Shardlake mysteries. Did not find the character of Giordano Bruno to be particularly convincing - he could have just been a fictional character, which might have worked better. Also, mysteries do not need love interest subplots! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Beth | 5/1/2011

    " a historial mystery. set in time of queen elizabeth. I liked the historial part of it and liked the main character. It was a bit slow moving. Could have used a bit more action and a few more "clues" - but overall enjoyed it and I would read the next in the series. 31/2 stars "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Betsy | 4/19/2011

    " I could not wait to get back to the book. I became frustrated at the end with yet another situation for the main character. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gabrielle | 4/17/2011

    " Mystery. Takes place in Oxford. Pretty sub-par, but a good quick read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Journeywoman | 4/6/2011

    " I enjoyed this book but it started out better then it ended. I would read another in the series.

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Steph | 4/6/2011

    " Completely rapt thus far. Fantastic mystery. Only Three stars because I'm just halfway through. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer | 4/5/2011

    " Page-turning historical fluff at its best! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susan | 4/4/2011

    " This fell between a 2 and a 3. I enjoyed the details of the period and the main character was quite interesting if rather underdeveloped. I will probably pick up the next one (if it is a series) and see if she flushes out her characters better and keeps the interesting historical details. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bob | 3/31/2011

    " This type of book always reviews better than it is. 16th Century murder mystery-sounds interesting but always seems to come up little flat "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paula | 3/28/2011

    " Loved everything about this book from start to finish. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 SarahC | 3/27/2011

    " Sorry, this one lost me pretty early on with some unrealistic reactions of most of the characters to the first crime in the story and then it didn't seem to recapture me quickly after that. I may proceed with it at a future time, but I am moving on to something else now. "

About the Author

S.J. Parris is the pen name of Stephanie Merritt who 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 and Debates program on issues in contemporary arts and politics at London’s Soho Theatre. She has appeared as a panelist on various Radio Four shows and on BBC2’s Newsnight Review, and is a regular chair and presenter at the Hay Festival and the National Theatre. She has been a judge for the Costa Biography Award, the Orange New Writing Award, and the Perrier Comedy Award. She lives in the south of England with her son.

About the Narrator

John Lee is the winner of numerous Earphones Awards and the prestigious Audie Award for Best Narration. His has twice won acclaim as AudioFile’s Best Voice in Fiction & Classics. He also narrates video games, does voice-over work, and writes plays. He is an accomplished stage actor and has written and coproduced the feature films Breathing Hard and Forfeit. He played Alydon in the 1963–64 Doctor Who serial The Daleks.