The Religious Thriller

Arriving at #28 on the 3/21 Extended NYT Fiction best seller list is Heresy by S.J. Parris, a pseudonym for Stephanie Merritt. It’s her first outing under this name, her first time writing an historical thriller, and her first time on the best seller list. The Washington Post recently pegged Heresy as part of a subgenre they call “the religious thriller”:

If proliferation is a sign of health, then the most vigorous member of the historical novel species must surely be the religious thriller. We know what to expect of these ecclesiastical romps: Sadistic clerics, heroic visionaries, ancient texts, torture chambers and a sprinkling of Latin are guaranteed whether the turmoil being depicted is the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Inquisition or some obscure schism.

Set in the 16th C. the book is about a real-life Italian monk who was excommunicated for believing that the earth revolves around the sun. Escaping to Oxford, he was recruited as a spy for Elizabeth I and become involved in trying to solve some grisly murders. Heresy was acquired as the first in a trilogy

Merritt/Parris recently wrote in the Guardian that she enjoyed writing this book more than any of her others,

The best crime and thriller novels, though they may work within certain parameters, can offer just as much scope for psychological depth, tenderness and a critical perspective on society as “serious” novels, and writers such as Robert Harris and Matthew Pearl prove that you don’t have to compromise on prose style to create a cracking plot.

S.J. Parris
Retail Price: $25.95
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Doubleday – (2010-02-23)
ISBN / EAN: 0385531281 / 9780385531283

Random House audio; ABR; 9780307714299; $30
ebook available from OverDrive

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