London, summer of 1584: Radical philosopher, ex-monk, and spy Giordano Bruno suspects he is being followed by an old enemy. Instead, he is shocked to discover that his pursuer is in fact Sophia Underhill, a young woman with whom he was once in love. When Bruno learns that Sophia has been accused of murdering her husband, a prominent magistrate of Canterbury, he agrees to do anything he can to help clear her name.
But in the city that was once England’s greatest center of pilgrimage, Bruno uncovers a more dangerous plot in the making, one that forces him to turn his detective’s eye to the strange case of Saint Thomas Becket, a twelfth-century cardinal of Canterbury Cathedral whose mysterious murder is only matched by the legend surrounding the disappearance of his body.
It is the year of the Great Conjunction, the year the powerful planets of Saturn and Jupiter align to herald the end of one age and the dawn of another, and the streets of London are abuzz with predictions of Queen Elizabeth’s death. When one of the queen’s ladies is found dead amidst rumors of black magic, Elizabeth calls upon Giordano Bruno to solve the crimes, along with the help of her personal astrologer, John Dee. But while Dee turns to a mysterious medium claiming knowledge of the murders, Bruno fears that something far more sinister is at work.
When fugitive Italian monk Giordano Bruno—philosopher, magician, and heretical scientist—arrives in London, he’s only one step ahead of the Inquisition. An undercover mission for Queen Elizabeth I and her spymaster provides added protection. Officially, Bruno is to take part in a debate on the Copernican theory of the universe at Oxford University; unofficially, he is to find out whatever he can about a Catholic plot to overthrow the queen. But when his mission is dramatically thrown off course by a series of grisly deaths and the charms of a mysterious but beautiful young woman, he realizes that somewhere within Oxford’s private chambers lurks a brutal killer. . .