Tag Archives: Tudor

#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

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#BookReview HEARTSTONE by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4CM via @SandraDanby

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

I’m sorry if I’m beginning to sound like a cracked record, but I continue to love the Matthew Shardlake Tudor detective series by CJ Sansom. Fourth in the series, Revelation, is a roller-coaster ride of killings motivated by the Book of Revelation’s fire and damnation. Shardlake and his assistant Barak race around London struggling to second-guess the murderer’s motivations and identify his next likely target. CJ Sansom

Sansom achieves a difficult feat for a historical novelist, he balances world-building – the Tudor toxic politics and Tudor gossip-mongering – will Lady Catherine Parr say yes to the King’s proposal – with Shardlake’s legal world and the fascinating detail and colour which brings London in Spring 1543 to life. Once again we see Shardlake’s vulnerability – when an old friend is murdered in mystifying and frightening circumstances – and his moral strength as he faces the dangers of investigation. These dangers do not threaten only his life but of those around him; they also threaten his position and future, as he is drawn unwillingly again into the circle of the Tudor court where queens, and courtiers, often last only a short time. These are the only historical novels I have read which are truly page-turners in its meaning of ‘one more chapter before I turn out the light’.

Set at a time of radical religious reform, when saying the wrong thing may find you shamed, hanged or burned, Matthew is working on the case of a teenage boy sent to Bedlam hospital. Is he mad, or possessed by the devil? Is he safer in Bedlam or with his parents where he might escape and be burned as a heretic. When Matthew’s friend is found dead in bizarre circumstances he is charged with solving the crime by Archbishop Cranmer. Guy of Malton, former apothecary monk from Dissolution, the first book in the series, is now a doctor and has a theory that excludes God and religion. Could a serial killer be at loose?

If you want to lose yourself in book, to travel to another world and time, then try this series. I am already anticipating the loss when I have read the last book. But the Shardlake books have so much detail and depth with recurring characters who become familiar,  I know I will be re-reading them soon.

Read my reviews of the first three books in the series DissolutionDark Fire and Sovereign.

If you like this, try:-
Orphans of the Carnival’ by Carol Birch
The Lady of the Rivers’ by Philippa Gregory
The Cursed Wife’ by Pamela Hartshorne

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

#Bookreview ‘Dissolution’ by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective

CJ Sansom Oh my goodness why have I taken so long to read the Shardlake series by CJ Sansom? I was absolutely gripped by Dissolution, first in this Tudor series of mysteries featuring Matthew Shardlake, commissioner for Thomas Cromwell. And now I want to read all the others.

It is 1537. Henry VIII is king and supreme head of the Church of England. A year has passed since Anne Boleyn was beheaded and her successor as queen, Jane Seymour, has just died following childbirth. Cromwell’s team of investigators, or commissioners, are reviewing every monastery across the land. The dissolution of these institutions is expected as Catholic worship is reformed and anglicised. Lawyer Shardlake is sent by Cromwell to the monastery of Scarnsea on the Sussex coast where the investigating commissioner Robin Singleton has been murdered. Cromwell wants a quick solution to the murder so he can tell the king the problem and solution at the same time, and so puts pressure on Shardlake to find the murderer within days.

Shardlake is a great central character; a hunchback, as a boy he turned to his studies when sports and girls seemed impossible. ‘My disability had come upon me when I was three, I began to stoop forward and to the right, and no brace could correct it. By the age of five I was a true hunchback, as I have remained to this day.’ At Scarnsea, Shardlake needs all his bravery and perseverance to unravel Singleton’s murder. There is only one person he can trust, his servant Mark Poer. Everyone else is a suspect. Sansom twists a variety of motives to make every person at Scarnsea a potential murderer and as the story is told totally from Shardlake’s viewpoint, we must consider each piece of new evidence with him. Everyone at the monastery knows their way of life is threatened and some monks fear the changes. But there have been sexual misdeeds in the past, drinking, gambling and, Shardlake comes to suspect, financial fraud too.

When the snow falls, Scarnsea is cut off from the outside world. Shardlake’s investigation is systematic, interviewing monks, examining correspondence, visiting the crime scene, checking financial records, considering potential scenarios. There is a creepiness about the monastery which made me shiver as Shardlake shivered, and not not just from the extreme cold. Threat is ever present, made gloomier by the adjacent marshes.

Dissolution is a terrific book. The historical setting and details are authentic; Shardlake is a compelling protagonist, caught as he is between light and shade, between what he wants to do and what he knows he should do; and the murderer is not obvious.

Amazon UK

If you like this, try:-
‘The Last Hours’ by Minette Walters
‘The Witchfinder’s Sister’ by Beth Underdown
The Ashes of London’ by Andrew Taylor

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