This is the latest in this series about the renegade monk, philosopher and heretic Giordano Bruno and the treacherous goings on in Elizabethan England.

The series began with Heresay and has not dimmed in its pace amongst the many plots, twists and often lethal turns with plots against Queen Elizabeth I.

Bruno arrives back in England from a boring teaching post in Paris with shocking information for spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. A band of Catholic Englishmen are plotting to kill Queen Elizabeth and spring Mary Queen of Scots from prison to take the English throne in her place. Bruno is surprised to learn Walsingham is aware of he plot, led by the young, wealthy noble Anthony Babington, and is allowing it to progress. He hopes that Mary will put her support in writing and condemn herself to a traitor’s death. Bruno is tasked with going undercover to join the conspirators. Can he stop them before he is exposed? Either way a Queen will die. Bruno must be sure it is the right one.

Well written, Stephanie Jane Merritt (SJ Parris) sets the atmosphere well once again especially amongst the bawdy theatres and taverns of London. As ever a woman (Sophia Underhill) in the life of Bruno may unravel the whole proceedings. I haven’t read all the previous novels so had to cobble some parts of lives together through hints in the text given fairly liberally by the author.

Of course we all know the factual history. Is this more lighthearted approach a better way to explain the time than say perhaps Hilary Mantel’s huge epic trilogy? Not sure I know really. I still struggle if asked to outline the Tudor history of the time (which King or Queen and which plot it often blurs into one). Undoubtedly C J Sansom is the lead in this area of fiction but I think Giordano Bruno is a character that sustains the tale.

It’s a good personal read although perhaps I tire of these historical tales again. But this is one of the better (alongside my all time favourite SJ Maclean ‘Damien Seeker series) and  I think book clubs will lap up another instalment from Parris with haste.

Poor Mary? in the novel she states “…the summer so far has been bleak, or at least what she can see of it, from her casement, since she is not permitted to walk outside.” Mary, dear Mary, we know your fate and in this time of isolation due to the Coronavirus, we also feel your pain.

Philipa Coughlan 4/5*

Execution by SJ Parris
978-0-0074-8131-6 Harper Collins UK Harper Collins ebook April 2020