I’ve had this on my to-read list so long, it’s ridiculous. And finally I got round to it! In tone, it’s very like C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake books, but I have to confess that I think I enjoyed those more. Giordano Bruno’s role in this book was just… he was seeking out secret Catholics, to betray them to Walsingham, okay. But he was a Catholic and he faced the Inquisition, and he was well aware of what would happen to the people he betrayed — some of whom trusted him. It doesn’t sit well with me, and he barely even tried to justify it. It’s not as though he fervently believed that the Catholics were actually going to harm Queen Elizabeth; quite the reverse.
The historical setting and the mystery both work reasonably well, but I found it difficult to care about. There were few characters I wanted to care about; the only one was Sophia, and she was badly treated by the plot and just about every other character. Oh, and Cobbett, the alcoholic but devoted doorkeeper of the college.
If you’re interested in the period and into mystery stories, I’d give it a try — there’s a lot to enjoy about the way the mystery is set within the historical plot. I wouldn’t read the rest of the series personally, but it was okay for a one-off.