C.J. Sansom, the fabulous British writer of the Shardlake Mysteries, is out with a new book, Heartstone which my bookseller placed in my hands just yesterday. It reminded me to share with you my experience with this wonderful series.
I have read and enjoyed three of the Matthew Shardlake Mysteries. The first in the series is Dissolution, published in 2003. Shardlake is a retired attorney turned investigator charged with solving the murder of one of Thomas Cromwell’s commissioners during King Henry VIII’s closing of all of the monasteries in England. Sansom’s attention to historical detail is so excellent that the book could qualify as a historical novel! You will also meet Shardlake’s able assistant Jack Barak. What a team indeed! The characters Sansom developes and the localities he describes place you firmly in Sixteenth Century Tudor England. Sansom kindly publishes for the reader maps of the setting of the plot!
Move on to the second Shardlake Mystery, Sovereign published in 2006. Shardlake and Jack Barak are called upon to solve yet another murder this time within King Henry VIII’s Court. They undercover a plot against the King Himself! You will meet the fifth wife of Henry the VIII, Catherine Howard, and be plunged into a question of the legitimacy of succession to the English Throne! It only gets better and better.
Want more? In Revelation, published in 2008, King Henry VIII is wooing his sixth wife Catherine Parr. Archbishop Cramer is suspicious that Lady Catherine has reformist sympathies. She is also resisting the King’s affection ! Sansom’s physical descriptions of the King leave little wonder as to why it is a hard choice for Catherine. Add to the plot a young boy who because of his religious zealotry has been placed in the Bedlam hospital for the insane. If he is released he will be burned at the stake as a heretic! Enter Shardlake and Barak who while investing the murder of a personal friend discover a direct connection to the imprisoned boy! One more Sansom mystery that will lead you page by page into the late evening, enjoying every minute.
There is a fourth in this series titled Dark Fire ( 2004)but I am now so consumed with the opening pages of Heartstone that Dark Fire will have to wait. Sansom authored another novel, Winter in Madrid (2006) set during the Spanish Civil War. Some reviewers have called it a Hemingway without the romance! I have not read that work .
I commend C.J. Sansom to lovers of extremely well written mysteries and don’t discount the value of his accurate historical perspective. A painless way to discover the world of Sixteenth Century Tudor England and the life and wives of Henry VIII>