by S. J. Parris
The city of Paris appears degraded by political bloodshed, under threat of royalty and religion and harboring a ruthless Catholic League to be feared. It is tearing itself apart. Caught by this perilous web, spy Bruno is thrust involuntarily into the depths of religious politics in Paris, confronted by his past haunts as well as the darkening present.
Fabulous, as anticipated. (Dear lord, I need that next installment already). Also, check out that cover. I love it. I’m not much for historical thrillers, or even a major lover of crime fiction, but Conspiracy handles these genres extraordinarily well and orchestrates something gripping and intriguing that will leave you unable to put this book down. 4.9/5 stars, if I had to rate it.
I felt more indulged than with Treachery, the book before this one (also something I urge you to read), since the crime thriller vibe came in far sooner with the death of Father Paul Lefvre early on which immediately sparked subsequent mystery. Who and what is ‘Circe’? That question stayed with me the whole time.
Adored the whole exploration of Italian theatrics as well, with returning characters and mentions drawing acknowledgement to Bruno’s previous ventures. The locations in Conspiracy add to the thrill too – the heart of the Palace was by far home to the best chapters of this book, and costumes (Doctor Bruno in the doctor outfit though). King Henri III was especially brilliant, a perfect comedic touch on what were dark and edgy themes of murder and peril. This is not to mention the persona of the queen mother Catherine de Medici, which was really quite scary (think old stern woman whose house you never wandered past at the end of the street) in conjunction with the mysterious Paiget, who I found a unique antagonistic figure. His snips of humour and choice of words are so sixteenth century cheeky aristocrat. Not your usual villainous character, by any means.
As expected there were subtle twists and turns. The book is littered with characters steeped in French history, and Parris as usual does her research, being careful not to overload the reader while also flourishing her knowledge of the 1500s. I like a well-informed piece of writing, and Parris always gives a snip of grit and reality amidst her descriptive prose and imagery.
(Also – Parris writing a book on Paris. There is potential for a pun there somewhere. Just. C’mon.)