Execution (Giordano Bruno 6) by SJ Parris

Treason and plot…

😐 😐

Giordano Bruno has returned to England from Paris to bring a message to Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster. A plot is underway to assassinate Elizabeth and install Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne. Walsingham is aware of this already but sees a use for Bruno – to impersonate a priest who has arrived to bring Spanish aid to the conspirators. Walsingham also thinks Bruno might be helpful in finding out who murdered Clara Poole, a young woman who was one of Walsingham’s spies.

I’m afraid I found this incredibly slow and dull, and finally gave up just after the halfway point. Partly this may be because I already know the story of the Babington plot to assassinate Elizabeth quite well, and didn’t find this brought anything new to the table. I assumed that, given how well known the plot and its outcome are, the real story would be about Clara’s murder, with the Babington strand merely acting as an interesting background. But the emphasis, at least in this first half of the book, is almost entirely on Bruno’s infiltration of the conspiracy. Partly also, though, it’s because it moves at a glacial speed, being far too long for its content. Much of it is action-free, with too much dialogue. There’s one long, long section that takes place over a meal in an inn and is purely made up of all the characters discussing the plot so that Bruno and the reader know everything that has happened to date and who trusts and mistrusts whom – a lazy ploy of all tell and no show.

There’s no doubt that the research is good. The details of and background to the Babington conspiracy seem accurate, as far as I know, and the portrayal of the rather fanatical Walsingham is done very well. I don’t know much about the real Giordano Bruno so can’t say how accurate the fictional one is, but he’s quite a likeable protagonist. The descriptions of the London of this era ring true, and mostly the language is fine – neutral standard English rather than any attempt at Elizabethan dialect – with only the occasional jarringly anachronistic turn of phrase.

SJ Parris

As so often I seem to be swimming against the tide with this one – it’s getting almost universal praise from other reviewers so far, most of whom seem to be dedicated fans of the series. So perhaps it works better if you already have an emotional attachment to the recurring characters, or perhaps if you don’t know about the Babington plot going in. Though I can’t imagine anyone remotely interested in the Tudor period who wouldn’t already know what happened to Elizabeth and Mary respectively, making it obvious whether the plot succeeded even if you hadn’t heard of it before; and knowing the outcome means there’s no suspense. With such a well known event as the background, the murder story or Bruno’s personal story would have had to be much stronger than they are to dominate the foreground.

Despite abandoning it, I don’t feel it deserves the 1-star I usually give to books I don’t finish. It’s well written and well researched – I fear it simply didn’t hold my interest.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, HarperCollins, via NetGalley.

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35 thoughts on “Execution (Giordano Bruno 6) by SJ Parris

  1. Oh, sorry to hear this one didn’t do it for you, FictionFan. It is an interesting topic, and could have been made into something really fine. But, as you say, if you don’t bring something new to historical events, it’s hard to get the reader involved in the story. Still, the premise sounds interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I might have got on better with it at a different time but at the moment if a book doesn’t grab me then I haven’t got the willpower to keep on struggling! I’ve got another one of her books on my TBR, though, so I’ll see how I get on with it – but not now!

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  2. Have you read anything else by her? The name was immediately familiar but I’ve read none of her books. I do recognise ‘While You Sleep’ but that’s published under her other name. Confusing. I assume I must have read other reviews some time. All of which is unnecessary preamble to offering tea and chocolate in sympathy – yet another abandoning… another one which failed to hit the spot. In the prevailing fictionfan climate I hope the author appreciates the awarding of that extra star!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had no idea she wrote under another name too – While You Sleep looks quite intriguing! I read the first in her Bruno series years ago when it first came out, and liked it enough to acquire book 2, though the fact that it’s still lingering unread on my TBR suggests I wasn’t madly keen even back then. I might have enjoyed this one more at a different time, but I’m afraid as you’ve noticed an awfully high percentage of books are being abandoned around the FF household at the moment! I will read the second book sometime in the future – although this one didn’t cut through my slump, I could still see there were good things about it…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a shame! I’m sorry you had to abandon this one, but at least you felt no compunction to trek through something that was failing to hold your interest. I admire you for that! Too often, I fear, we force ourselves to read, turning page after page and asking ourselves why, when we’re not invested in the plot or characters. Not every book is meant for every reader, and the sooner publishers (and authors) accept that, the better we’ll be!

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    • Absolutely! And when I’m already struggling to enjoy reading, a book that isn’t holding my attention has to go – no point in wading through it. This one might have worked better for me at a different time, although I do think historical novels based on such a well known (over here) event are tricky to make suspenseful…

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  4. Oh dear, you’re not having much luck at the moment, I guess that’s the risk of trying authors who are new to us. It sounds as though this did actually have some pottential, shame it never really developed into anything fresh and exciting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This was one that came at the worst of my slump when I was abandoning books all over the place. It might have worked for me at a different time, although I feel it would be hard to get much suspense into such a well-known event. I have one of the earlier books in the series in my TBR though, so I’ll give her another try sometime when I’m feeling more enthusiastic!

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    • I read the first one years ago and liked it but without much enthusiasm. I couldn’t remember much about it when I started this one, but now realise why I didn’t continue with the series, although I do have the second book on my TBR. An author has to be really good to make as well known an event as this feel fresh or suspenseful…

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  5. Hmmm. This is a series I’ve heard of, but not yet started. (I think I have the first tagged at the library) Perhaps I won’t get into any great hurry since I have plenty to keep me occupied in the meantime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did read the first one long ago when it came out and must have enjoyed it enough, since I acquired the second book. However, I never got around to reading it and it lingers on my TBR still, so clearly even back then I wasn’t overly enthusiastic. However, they are popular so it’s all subjective… as usual!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Last night’s Channel 5 programme on the Battle of Britain ended with a trailer for the second episode which asked, in a cliffhanger-type tone, if Britain could manage to defeat the Luftwaffe. If viewers don’t know the answer to that, I’ll be very worried indeed! As you say, if you’re interested enough in Elizabeth and Mary to read this, you’re not going to be in suspense wondering what happens. This book did sound interesting, but I might give it a miss now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, yes, it would be worrying if people didn’t know the answer to that cliffhanger, but tragically I wouldn’t be totally surprised! Wasn’t there some kind of poll recently that suggested loads of people don’t know about the Holocaust? This book might have worked better for me at a different time, but I’ve been abandoning far more books than usual recently because of my general reading slump. So don’t let me put you off completely – other reviewers are rating it much more highly… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s what I felt – the whole Elizabeth and Mary story has been told so often in books and films and TV series that it would be hard to imagine that many people wouldn’t know the end result, even if they don’t know the details. Especially if they were at all interested in the Tudor period…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Gosh you haven’t had much luck in this department lately-I sense a few more DNF’s than usual? This one sounds boring to me too, historical fiction has to have a special twist or tone to keep people interested!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, been DNF’ing all over the place! It feels unfair on the books a bit, but I think they all deserved it… 😉 The Tudors have been used so often that it’s hard to find a new angle, and this particular plot is so well known to Tudor fans…

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re right, I wasn’t. I was taught classes in what was called ‘Modern History’ of which I can’t remember anything and ‘Ancient History’ where we learned about Mykonos. I learned Australian history too, which didn’t include any Aboriginal history. I could not even guess which century the Tudors belonged in, which means I’m not likely to ever win a trivia competition!

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