The fourth book in C J Sansom’s series of novels is probably the most thrilling yet. Matthew Shardlake is this time on the trail of a serial killer in the precarious period of Henry VIII’s latter years. As with all his works Sansom succeeds in keeping the reader in constant suspense till the final pages of this 600 page rollercoaster. Every chapter ended with a hook that reeled you into the next. I’ll admit I became a bit antisocial while reading this book such what the enthralling nature of the prose.
Sansom portrays the fear and anxiety in the aftermath of the dissolution of the abbeys and monasteries and the fall of Thomas Cromwell superbly. Henry VIII was leaning more towards the traditional Catholic traditions of his youth and the factions of conservatism and reformers were pitted against each other in the court and in communities throughout England. This is a period that, I believe, had been largely ignored by historians (excepting Diarmaid McCulloch in his seminal work Reformation) and the impact that these rapid changes in religious adherence had on normal people has really been take into consideration as part of the narrative.
The impressive thing about this series of books is that each one exists independently as a novel in its own right. I have obviously read them in order and I would recommend do so but if you just want a good one off novel this one would be the one I would choose.
There are, thank goodness, a further two Shardlake novels Heartstone and Lamentation which I look forward to acquiring and devouring in the near future.