Tag Archives: Henry VIII

#BookReview ‘Heartstone’ by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective

The Matthew Shardlake series by CJ Sansom continues to get better. Heartstone, the penultimate book of the six, involves a puzzle which kept me guessing until the reveal. Despite Shardlake vowing to take a back seat from Royal intrigues, the Tudor lawyer/detective is pulled into a case at the behest of Queen Catherine Parr. This is a great series to lose yourself in. CJ Sansom

A tutor, son of one of the Queen’s staff, has alleged an injustice done against a former pupil, Hugh Curteys, by the Hobbey family who adopted Hugh and his sister Emma after the death of their parents. This complaint takes Shardlake before the Court of Wards, not Shardlake’s natural territory, where the lives and rights of orphaned minors are protected. In truth, it is rife with fraud and abuse and the case brings Shardlake face-to-face with old and new enemies.

A journey into Hampshire at the time King Henry VIII is mobilising his army and navy south to oppose the expected invasion by the French, is ill-advised. Normal life is suspended as Henry distributes new coinage, devalued to pay for his war, and men are conscripted in the fields and the streets. But Shardlake, as ever driven by the desire to correct injustice, becomes the scourge of the Hobbey family at Hoyland Priory, north of Portsmouth. Despite the misgivings of his clerk, Jack Barack, Shardlake also takes the opportunity to research another mystery; Ellen Fettiplace, a patient at Bedlam who featured in earlier novels, was born in a Sussex village and Shardlake takes the opportunity to research the events which led to her madness and imprisonment.

This is a clever series with legal cases providing the puzzles and Tudor politics – and this time, war – providing the scheming, manipulative characters. With the story climaxing on board the Mary Rose as it sets sail against the French, we all know the history but cannot know Shardlake’s part in it. This is a long book, encompassing the Curteys and Fettiplace mysteries and the preparations for war as Shardlake and Barak travel south with a company of archers destined to fight on one of the great warships. Stuffed with history and fascinating detail.

Here are my reviews of the first four books in the series:-
Dark Fire

If you like this, try:-
Orphans of the Carnival’ by Carol Birch
The Surfacing’ by Cormac James
Dark Aemilia’ by Sally O’Reilly

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#BookReview HEARTSTONE by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4CM via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Sovereign’ by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective

CJ SansomSovereign by CJ Sansom is third in the Matthew Shardlake series and the best so far. Taking true events –Henry VIII’s Royal Progress to York in 1541, the northern rebellion against the crown and the rumours of Queen Catherine’s infidelity – Sansom writes a complex story of rebels, betrayal, bastards and inheritance that keeps one more page turning.

Lawyer Shardlake is in York at the bequest of Archbishop Cranmer ostensibly to present legal petitions to the King, but he also has a secret task. To watch over the welfare of a Yorkist prisoner, ensuring the man is kept alive and able to be interrogated in London. Shardlake agrees reluctantly, aware he will be keeping alive a man destined for torture and the rack. But a series of odd events make him question his role in York and whether his life is in danger. This is a densely plotted novel with many clues and dead ends as Shardlake tries to find answers – to the murder of a local glazier removing glass from church windows, to an old legend about royal succession, to the connivings and hidden intentions of some of the ladies employed by the Queen, and why an old enemy is rousing dissent against Shardlake. As always, he is determined to stay on the side of what is right; which lands him in trouble. At his side, Barak defends his master and cautions him to stop annoying powerful people by asking difficult questions and failing to fall into line. But this is the reason Shardlake is so popular with readers; when his hunched back is ridiculed by the king, no less, it made me want to shout out aloud.

The mid-sixteenth century is a dark point in history with an arrogant and obsessive king, an obsequious court, and corruption everywhere. Set mostly in York, this novel has a different feel to the previous two. The politics of the time saw Yorkshire punished for its support of the House of York and its opposition to the Tudors, there was much poverty, starvation and injustice. So, fertile ground for Sansom to use as the basis for Sovereign, writing period detail with the tension of a modern thriller as Shardlake questions his own beliefs and values. Uncomfortable reading in places, doing the right thing is sometimes easy to talk about but not always easy to do.

Very good. I can’t wait to read the next in the series.

Read my reviews of the first two books in the series Dissolution and Dark Fire.

If you like this, try:-
Dark Aemilia’ by Sally O’Reilly
The Ashes of London’ by Andrew Taylor
Lord John and the Private Matter’ by Diana Gabaldon

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#BookReview SOVEREIGN by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3YA via @SandraDanby

Great opening paragraph…16

The Other Boleyn Girl - OP
“Spring 1521. I could hear a roll of muffled drums. But I could see nothing but the lacing on the bodice of the lady standing in front of me, blocking my view of the scaffold. I had been at this court for more than a year and attended hundreds of festivities; but never before one like this.”
‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ by Philippa Gregory