Heresy by S. J. Parris is an historical mystery set in Oxford in 1583. S.J. Parris is the pseudonym of writer Stephanie Merritt, who is a regular contributor to The Observer and The Guardian. Heresy is very reminiscent of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose as well as calling to mind the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. It isn’t quite fast-paced enough to have as mass an appeal as a pop potboiler like The Da Vinci Code.
Parris has chosen real-life Renaissance man Giordano Bruno as her protagonist/detective. … Bruno has come to Oxford to debate the controversial Copernican theory, but he is quickly embroiled in a multiple-murder mystery and may be, as an outsider to the closed academic community, the person best-suited to help unravel a series of grisly killings that are striking Oxford fellows. The murders are all staged to resemble the martyrdom of Catholic saints, including one tableau where a body has been shot full of arrows, like Saint Sebastian. Not only does Giordano have to sort out who may be behind the killings, but the lapsed Catholic soon finds himself on the trail of a Catholic secret society, and possibly falling in love with the beautiful daughter of the college rector, Sophia Underhill.