Thursday, 18 June 2009


I've just finished reading the last of the first four Shardlake books by C.J.Sansom. I discovered them earlier on in the year and have been working steadily through them until now. They follow the life of a hunchbacked lawyer in the sixteenth century. The first book begins shortly after the execution of Ann Boleyn. Shardlake is a sympathetic character rapidly becoming disillusioned with his former reformist beliefs by the maelstrom of politics, religion, greed and courtly intrigue that rages around him. Tasked by Thomas Cromwell and latterly Archbishop Cranmer to investigate politically sensitive crimes, he tries to solve several murders while steering clear of falling foul to the many powerful players that vie for position in Henry VIII's favour. The dissolution of the monasteries is in full swing during the first book, which takes place in a monastery at Scarnsea but the strong portions of the books are set in amongst the throng of London. London is a character in its own right. The only parts that seemed to drag too much were in the third book which took us north to York Minster in the aftermath of the northern rebellion, which gives us the one short appearance by the old Mouldwarp himself King Henry VIII. Even though the king has little physical presence in the books his shadow is always there. Anyone could inform on anyone at anytime, for advancement, for cruelty or to save their own head from the chopping block. I've read a few books set during this part of Tudor history but these books rank very highly. Sansom is never the most economical of writers but he does tell a good tale in a world with enough detail to always feel authentic.

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