The Quality of Mercyby Faye Kellerman
Rebecca Lopez enjoys a life of privilege in Elizabeth's England -- yet she guards secrets she dares not reveal. The beautiful, tempestuous daughter of the queen's own physician, Rebecca is also a converso -- a Jew who practices her prohibited religion clandestinely -- helping others of her banned faith escape persecution and death. And her insatiable hunger/i>
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Rebecca Lopez enjoys a life of privilege in Elizabeth's England -- yet she guards secrets she dares not reveal. The beautiful, tempestuous daughter of the queen's own physician, Rebecca is also a converso -- a Jew who practices her prohibited religion clandestinely -- helping others of her banned faith escape persecution and death. And her insatiable hunger for excitement often takes her to the bustling streets of London in male garb to experience the kind of adventure available only to men. But one such outing is leading her into a dangerous viper's nest built of intrigue and foul murder in the company of a dashing young actor who inflames her romantic passions, even as he escorts her toward peril, a charming and fearless would-be playwright who calls himself Will Shakespeare.
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As I see the first hint of sunlight, the death march begins. We advance toward the Terriero do Paco -- the great city square adjacent to the Royal Palace on the seafront.
Leading the processional is Don Henrique -- the Inquisitor General of Portugal by appointment of his older brother, His Royal Highness John the Third. Don Henrique is an ugly man -- lean, with an avian nose, and black eyes set so deeply that the sockets appear hollow. His thick beard -- a weave of bronze, copper, and iron -- is meticulously shaped to a dagger point. His dress is appropriately august -- official: floor-length black robe and cape, white clerical collar, and black trapezoidal hat. Dangling from his neck is his scallop-edged crucifix of gold, inset with topaz, lapis, aquamarine, sapphire, and topped with a finial of diamonds. A haughty man, Don Henrique always wears jeweled crosses. Gilt bible clutched to his breast, eyes fixed straight ahead, he presses on slowly but inexorably, prepared to carry out the work of his God.
Following the Inquisitor are four rows of black-garbed monks. Around their necks are unadorned crucifixes fashioned from the heavier base metals. Rigid and stone-faced, they carry black-covered bibles and hold aloft crosses and banners. They chant low-pitched dirges as they trudge forward on sandaled feet.
Behind the clergy are the royal officials and the blackhooded executioners -- the secular arm of the law. Their ranks advance in taut, military fashion -- arms swinging with pendular precision, not a boot out of step.
We are at the rear of theretinue. The victims -- the wretches. We are heavily guarded and hold lighted tapers that spit fire into the early morning. sky. Some of us endure the ordeal with stoicism -- posture erect, gait sure-footed and strong. That is how I walk. Others about me seem stuporous, stumbling off-balance, as if being yanked forward by an invisible harness. The weakest weep openly.
The auto-da-fé -- act of faith -- is the day of reckoning for us. We've been convicted of violations of the Church. We walk forward, clearly identified for the onlookers; we wear the dreaded sambenito -- the two-sided apron of shame imprinted with symbols corresponding to our infractions. Serious sinners like myself wear corazas -- conical miters -- as well.
Some are considered penitent and deemed reconcilable to the Church. They will gratefully accept the penalties meted out to them. The pettiest among them will be punished with fines, terms of forced servitude, or imprisonment. More serious transgressors will merit whipping or public shaming -- being stripped to the waist and paraded around town to the derision and jeers of their countrymen. Wretches who committed grave infractions will be plunged into poverty, have all their worldly possessions confiscated by the Holy Office. These offenders will be stigmatized for generations, their descendants barred forever from entering the Holy Office, from becoming physicians, tutors, apothecaries, advocates, scriveners, or farmers for revenue. They will be forbidden to dress in cloth woven from gold or silver thread, wear jewelry, or ride on horseback.
But they are fortunate.
I, and others like me, are deemed impenitent. We hapless souls are guilty of the most odious heresies. My specific crime is Judaizing -- practicing and professing the ancient laws of Moses rendered obsolete by their Jesus Christ. Once, Spain called me a converso -- a Christian of Jewish bloodline. I was an overt Catholic, but secretly I practiced the old ways. My transgressions were discovered by a wanton woman. Now I am doomed.
Distinguished from the fortunates by our green tapers and dress, we -- the relapsos -- wear special fiery miters and the sambenito of death imprinted with the likeness of the Devil himself. Around his horned visage and pronged fork are leaping flames: the Hell that is to await us.
I spit on their stinking Christian ground. That's what I think of their Hell.
This morning will be my last. Before the night is over, I will be sentenced to die without effusion of blood, their castigation derived from John 15:6 -- from the teachings of their Savior Himself: If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
The dank ocean fog begins to melt, yielding to an opaline sky dotted with tufts of woolly cloud. At six in the morning the city bells ring out the signal and I shudder with dread. The cobblestone walkways begin to fill with austere gentlemen somberly wrapped in dark capes. They step with much haste, their servants at their heels. Ten minutes later the veiled women of the households emerge -- wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters. Some of the women hold babies and toddlers, others drag older children, chiding them for slowness. The streets soon become a throng of bodies. In the center is this murderous tribunal -- as poisonous as an asp. It undulates its way to the city square.
By the time the officials arrive at the Terreiro, most of the spectators have been positioned, either standing, or seated in the gallery benches that form a semicircle around the dais, the garrotes, and the stakes. In the foreground are the whitecapped swells of the ocean. In the background stands the great palace, casting a deep shadow over the galleries.
We are ordered to stand up straight. A guard hits the woman next to me. She is eight months pregnant, younger than I, I think. Around seventeen. Her back is stooped from the weight of her fruit. I smile at her. Wet-eyed, she smiles back at me. Our eyes have told each to be strong.
As Don Henrique ascends to the black-draped podium, the noise of idle conversation softens, then finally quiets to silence. The Inquisitor stands immobile, his head bowed in meditation. The sun, now higher in the advanced morning sky, projects a metallic sheen onto the ground, gilding the Inquisitor. Tides yawn rhythmic...The Quality of Mercy. Copyright © by Faye Kellerman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Meet the Author
Faye Kellerman lives with her husband, New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman, in Los Angeles, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
- Beverly Hills, California
- Date of Birth:
- July 31, 1952
- Place of Birth:
- St. Louis, Missouri
- B.A. in Mathematics, 1974; D.D.A., 1978
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I thought it was too long and dragged a bit. The characters weren't very likable for the most part.
This is a fabulous book! the world of Elizabethan England comes to life. The characters are well developed and entirely intriguing. Fascinating story of intrigue and adventure! Couldn't put it down.
loved it, thrilling and interesting
This is historical fiction explaining a horrific period of history that is ignored in the history books. It is historical correct and if one is disgusted, good, because it was awful. Very well written and the characters are well developed.
this was the best book ever read it
Great book based on historical events! Must read.
O.K. I have not read it yet. But I have been looking for it for a l-o-n-g time. I have heard nothing but good reviews. Both Kellermans are great. Faye uses her background on the Jewish life & religion. Jonathan uses his backgound in psychology. As a student of both religion & psychology I can say they weave great tales for the reader to enjoy.