Set mainly within the walls of Scarnsea, but with some memorable scenes in London, the book seethes with sinners For a book about religion, there s a remarkable lack of decent, honest, god fearing folk Nevertheless, their lack of moral character stops nobody from arguing the validity of their viewpoint and its evident justification As someone with no religious affiliation or belief, it s sometimes hard to imagine how important the specifics of worship can be to an individual or group what doesn t surprise is the ways in which the machinery of power or domineering individuals can make such strong convictions useful This was a time when every word had to be considered before spoken and informers abound, offering testimony of guilt in exchange for reward, regardless of any truth The wrong thought, turned into speech or deed, could land you at Tyburn hung, wracked, beheaded, drawn and quartered, or burned at the stake A wondrous selection of terrifying options for a painful death A Crown agent beheaded in a monastery is a big deal, it could be the spark that sets off the tinderbox, a whole country up in flames Interestingly, the author has chosen to give Shardlake a physical disability in the form of bent spine and hunched back, causing him discomfort of both the physical and mental kind He is well aware of his difference, always seeing reactions to that aspect of himself in others, and there is no doubt he receives mockery in the book He has a quick mind, and a quicker temper, but makes a compelling narrator, working through the clues with a sharp attention to detail, through not always an open mind His master, Cromwell, is a sinister figure, mercurial and rather frightening, prepared to do whatever is necessary to see the King s and his own will done That Shardlake cannot see this part of his personality was a stretch even with a certain amount of denial, a man of his intelligence should have been aware Yet the book is about the maturation of his understanding and he is disabused of many naive notions by the end It s a dangerous world, but not without humour The language is lively, filled with fun and useful insults I fully plan to wish a pox on anyone who annoys me today When I worked at Waterstones, this series was one that consistently sold well, and now I know why I m looking forward to catching up with the rest of Shardlake s adventures soonARC via Netgalley I enjoyed reading this historical fiction book, recommended by GR friend Ingrid The book is set in 1537 England Henry VIII has left the Catholic church and the country is divided between those faithful to the new Church of England, with Henry VIII as its head, and the Catholic church A royal commissioner is murdered in the monastery of Scarnsea on the southeast coast of England Thomas Cromwell, Henry s vicar general, calls a lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, to his office and tells him to go to the monastery, find the murderer and persuade the monastery to surrender its property to the king Shardlake and his assistant Mark Poer go the monastery and investigate More murders happen and the ending was a surprise to me I thought that the author wrote a very evocative novel, painting a vivid picture of Tudor England, with all its cruelties and maneuverings by various players jockeying for power and money.
Two quotes Catholic Church holy relics They say that there are two headed dragons in the Indies Well here we have two headed saints Cromwell showing Shardlake two different skulls of the same saint Shardlake, dealing with an informer I was shaking like an aspen leaf from head to foot I give this library book a solid 4 out 5 stars I recommend it to historical fiction fans.
Henry VIII Has Ordered The Dissolution Of The Monasteries And England Is Full Of Informers At The Monastery Of Scarnsea, Events Have Spiralled Out Of Control With The Murder Of Commissioner Robin Singleton Matthew Shardlake, A Lawyer, And His Assistant Are Sent To Investigate This is a reread for me, the first in this historical series set in Tudor England that introduces and establishes the lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, afflicted by a deformity he was born with, leaving him in constant pain Henry VIII has ordered the Dissolution of the monasteries, intending to profit greatly from them This has created a febrile atmosphere of religious unrest with Catholics being hunted down and plentiful executions It is 1537, a tired and unhappy Shardlake has been summoned by the much feared Lord Thomas Cromwell, a man who had ill advisedly allied himself with the now beheaded Anne Boleyn, leaving him with much to prove One of Cromwell s agents has been murdered, beheaded no less, whilst investigating St Donatus monastary at Scarnsea The beheading is sending a personal message to Cromwell as he insists that Shardlake goes there and find out what is going on Shardlake and his assistant, Mark Poer, travel to the monastery, finding the monks unsurprisingly scarcely repenting of their faith, as they are politically demanded to do, despite the terrible repercussions if they do not Shardlake has little sympathy with the Catholic faith, being a strong supporter of the reformation With murder and a host of suspects, Shardlake has his work cut out to get close to the truth Sansom does a terrific job in evoking the turmoil and atmosphere of this historical period Shardlake makes for a compelling central character that carries this great series with aplomb I found this just as good a read as the first time round, entertaining and informative Many thanks to Panmacmillan for an ARC.
In the debut novel of this Tudor era series, C.
J Sansom lays the groundwork for what could be a great set of historical mysteries After King Henry VIII enacted the Dissolution of all monasteries across England, Thomas Cromwell sent commissioners out to ensure the rules were followed in short order After one such man, Robin Singleton, was reported slain at the monastery in Scarnsea, Cromwell calls for an investigation Turning to Matthew Shardlake, Cromwell entrusts him with returning after having located the killer and finishing the work that Singleton could not Shardlake makes his way to Scarnsea, in hopes that this will be a quick legal matter, but soon discovers that there is to the monastery than meets the eye While a killer is on the loose, there are other matters that require his attention, including struggles with the transition to the Church of England and with the personal lives of those who work inside the monastery s walls Shardlake must also come to terms with the means by which Singleton was killed, decapitation by sword, and stifle the memories of seeing young Anne Boleyn executed not long before in that manner As Shardlake inches closer to finding the killer, bodies turn up, leaving him to wonder if this is a single killer or a group who have been targeting individuals for a variety of reasons Pressured to return to London, Shardlake realises how life outside the big city differs greatly from monastic life, though murder knows no different Sansom does well with this first in the series, keeping readers curious about what is to come Recommended for those with a love of all things Tudor and readers who enjoy a well balanced mystery.
I admit that I struggled trying to read this book years ago, such a shock to many that ripples appeared across those who follow my reviews I decided to return to see if Sansom might have grown on me, which I must admit must have happened The story kept my attention and I was curious to see where Matthew Shardlake would go to find a killer out in the country Shardlake is an interesting protagonist, even for Tudor times A solicitor by trade, Shardlake is known less for his legal mind that the significant hunchback he possesses This feature has led many to comment on his abilities, as though posture denotes the ability to compute information Shardlake may have been sent by the Crown to investigate, but he shows that he is able to explore matters at his own pace and with an attentiveness that gets things done He is sly and astute without being offensive, particularly towards those who are already on edge There is surely much to learn about him, which will come in the next few novels Others prove wonderful additions to the story, including monks, monastic assistants, and even members of Court who seek Shardlake s quick responses to get to the bottom of events Sansom weaves them all together wonderfully and pushes to develop key relationships throughout that will help propel the story forward The premise of the novel is strong, set against the events in English history that brought Henry VIII much power of the monasteries in his attempt to weed out those who would speak against the Church of England With the execution of Anne Boleyn and the most recent queen dead in childbirth, there is much going on, even behind the scenes Sansom captures this while offering a stellar mystery to keep the reader enthralled Full of information and small details that grow as the narrative develops, Sansom thrusts his protagonist into the middle of it all, while also offering up base reactions to the Dissolution of the monastic life, important at the time, though rarely reported I am eager to see where the series goes and am pleased I took the time to return to the piece I will try things by audio, as it may have been my trying to trudge through the book alone that left me soured the first time I tried to digest the plot.
Kudos, Mr Sansom, for a wonderful beginning to a series set during one of my favourite times in history Let s see what other mysteries await and how Tudor life will shape it.
Love hate the review An ever growing collection of others appears at Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge Dissolution Dissolution is the first book from CJ Sansom in the Matthew Shardlake series, set during the reign of King Henry VIII and his Chief Minister, Thomas Cromwell The Catholic Church in 1536 is being eradicated in Britain and the Dissolution of the monasteries has begun by 1540 no monasteries would be left The tensions in the country are high between those loyal to King Henry and those to the Catholic Church Cromwell, himself is under scrutiny since his alliance with the now beheaded Ann Boleyn Shardlake is summoned to Thomas Cromwell s office and assigned to investigate the death of one of Cromwell s agents in St Donatus monastery at Scarnsea The agent is beheaded, which in itself, seems to be a message of some significance Shardlake is an intelligent astute lawyer, that suffers physical deformity as a hunchback, which creates a perception that somehow he is incapable, and wouldn t that be a mistake Shardlake sets off for Scarnsea with his assistant Mark Poer.
The historical nature and tone of the story are fabulously written and the attention to detail in dialogue and descriptions provides a wonderful atmosphere to enjoy this historical whodunit Shardlake is a brilliant central character providing that astonishing logic that makes this novel intriguing and captivating as he delicately investigates the murder at the monastery He knows only success will placate Cromwell and the dynamics of the political and religious tensions are palpable.
I would highly recommend this book as a murder mystery, and Sansom understands the Tudor period so well that you feel the foreign and basic life of the period surround you Sansom has created a character that will run for quite a while.
Even though I read a lot of history, I ve never been a fan of historical fiction and so when one of the book clubs to which I belong picked this novel as a monthly read, I approached it with some trepidation For the most part, though, I was pleasantly surprised and I enjoyed the book than I expected to Dissolution is set in England and the action takes place over a couple of extremely cold and snowy weeks in 1537 This is shortly after King Henry VIII has broken with the Catholic church and created the Church of England, with himself as the head of the church At this point, of course, religious freedom is only a dim, distant dream, and all English people are required by law to follow Henry into the new Anglican church, whether they like it or not.
Many of them don t like it They remain true to the Catholic church and continue to give their religious allegiance to the Pope Many of these people will be persecuted for their beliefs and not a few will be executed In many respects, these are not the sunniest of times.
Once establishing himself as head of the English church, Henry conveniently grants himself a divorce from his wife, Catherine of Aragon, so that he can marry Ann Boleyn The Pope had refused to grant Henry an annulment of his marriage to Catherine and this precipitated the break between Henry and the Pope.
Henry also moves expeditiously to confiscate property in England that had belonged to the Catholic church Most important, there were many Catholic monasteries in England that controlled vast amounts of valuable land Henry began the process of dissolving the monasteries the Dissolution and appropriating their wealth His principal ally in this effort was his vicar general, Thomas Cromwell, who was much feared by Henry s opponents.
Cromwell sends a commissioner to begin the process of dissolving the monastery of Scarnsea on the southern coast of England, but shortly after arriving at Scarnsea the commissioner is murdered Cromwell now sends one of his prot g s, a lawyer named Matthew Shardlake to investigate the murder and to conclude the Dissolution of the monastery.
Shardlake is a brilliant lawyer and is devoted to the reform of the church He is also a hunchback who has always been self conscious and socially ostracized to some extent because of his handicap Shardlake is accompanied by a handsome young assistant named Mark Poer, and the two make their way through the snow to Scarnsea to find a tangled web of murder and intrigue along with financial and sexual irregularities More murders will follow their arrival and it s clear that Shardlake and his young assistant are also in grave danger every moment that they remain in the monastery The burning question is whether or not Matthew Shardlake can accomplish his mission before both he and Mark become victims themselves of the evil that seems to infuse Scarnsea.
What I enjoyed most about this book was the atmosphere that Sansom creates He vividly recreates the turmoil of the period along with the sights, sounds and smells of the era The reader feels the chill in his or her own bones as the characters struggle to stay warm in the middle of the freezing cold weather This historical detail is engrossing and the story is a compelling one.
If I have a complaint about the book, it s that about halfway through the book, the story started to drag a bit Shardlake spends an awful lot of time wandering through the snow from one part of the monastery to another in order to interview people and it starts to get a bit repetitious I found myself encouraging Shadlake to pick up the pace a bit This is a book that runs 385 pages which, in my estimation, would have been much better at about 325 pages But that is a relatively small complaint, and this is a book that should appeal to anyone who enjoys historical mysteries 3.
5 stars for me, rounded up to four.
5 He Thomas Cromwell was holding up a casket small box and studying the contents with a contemptuous frown, his wide, narrow lipped mouth down turned above his lantern chin His jaw held thus made me think of a great trap that at any moment might open and swallow one whole with a casual gulp And with a brutal gulp, Cromwell dissolved and swallowed the monasteries across England, beginning with smaller ones in 1536 and completing the Dissolution of even the largest old ones by 1540, pensioning off a few monks but turning everyone else loose into the poor neighbouring townships The monasteries were infamous for hoarding wealth, and Cromwell was determined to collect it to augment the royal coffers via the Court of Augmentations There, they assess and divvy up the proceeds to buy up land for the Crown and cronies, no pun intended, and no it s from the Greek So nobody is looking after the poor.
Briefly, the Pope wasn t happy about Henry VIII s annul remarry plans, so Henry started his own church, the Church of England with himself as the head Today s C of E is also known as the Anglican Church, and Queen Elizabeth II is the Supreme GovernorThere is some historic religious connection to past centuries, and influence from the Protestant Reformation, but I d rather get back to the mystery Matthew Shardlake tells the story He is a lawyer in his late 30s who is hampered by his deformed hunched back But he s intelligent and quick witted, and Cromwell has been happy with Shardlake s work In the opening scene, quoted above, Cromwell commissions Shardlake to investigate the Monastery of Scarnsea after showing him a letter he has just received My master Singleton is foully murdered in the heart of the monastery, in a most terrible manner He was found this morning in the kitchen, in a lake of blood, his head cut clean off Some great enemy of Your Lordship must have done this, but all here deny it The church has been desecrated and the Great Relic of the Penitent Thief with its bloody nails is vanished away Please send help my lord and tell me what I should do So Shardlake and his talented, loyal off sider Mark, a handsome young ladies man, set off in the wet, blustery cold of an English winter to replace the murdered commissioner Cromwell was arguably the most feared man in England then, and his commissioners struck terror into the hearts of even the most powerful abbots Hunchbacks were considered unlucky then, so people tend to give Shardlake a wide berth, which makes it easy to find privacy in the pubs and inns along their way.
The wintry weather, the wind, the bitter cold sent me to the firesides with them The monastery is just as miserable, but the situation is hot with plenty of suspects In the winter, Scarnsea is a hard place to break into, but the monks and monastery staff would like to think the murderer came from outside Needless to say, Shardlake does have to flash his credentials a few times when insisting he can demand access to everything Every single thing Every desk drawer, every cupboard, every cell He s as nervous about failing Cromwell as he is about being murderedOh, yes, there are a couple deaths Did I forget to mention that It s a wonderful who dunnit with a colourful cast of very different characters, well identified in welcome, subtle ways by Sansom as they appear and reappear in the story It s so easy to get lost, especially in historical fiction, that it s refreshing to find an author who s not afraid to admit a reader might not have committed every name and scene to memory The list of Obedentiaries Monastery officials in the front is there if you need it, too.
The cast includes civilians in the kitchen and on the grounds, and our intrepid fellows both fall for the same bright, pretty girl in the kitchen, which causes some anguish and awkwardness, but she is kind to our hunchbacked hero in spite of obviously favouring handsome, younger Mark The townsfolk are desperately poor and starving and cold while the brothers eat well These are real people, not just theatre props, and I loved it all.
There s a lot about religion, with monks and everyone trying hard to remember not to use Catholic phrases in this new world One slip, and you could end up being stretched on the rack, tearing joints apart One seemingly mad monk has survived this, only just But they do bend the rules When questioning the time of a murder, Shardlake asksThis was at five o clock The clock had struck a little before Had Matins begun No, Matins is sung late here Usually towards six St Benedict s rule prescribes midnight He smiled gentlySt Benedict wrote his rule for Italians, sir, not people who have to live through English winters The office is sung and God hears it.
My kind of thinking There are interesting sidelights, such as when they tour the premisesBeer,I notedEmpty barrelsMark askedNo, full ones The monastery brewhouse has a monopoly in supplying the town s beer They can set the price It s in the founding charterTalk about a licence to print money No wonder Cromwell wants a piece of the action The language is appropriate to the era without being overly archaic or arcane I did question the phrase runcible peas , as in Edward Lear s The Owl and the Pussycat poem which mentioned a runcible spoon many years laterI also discovered that a runcible spoon sounds similar to my favourite piece of multi purpose cutlery, the splade or spork, depending on your preference But I digress The story seems accurate and informative as well as entertaining, I enjoyed the investigative process, and I didn t guess the perpetrator In those times and in those dreadful conditions, even I would have been tempted to murder Now, though, I m really looking forward to the next in the series I very rarely bother with crime novels The genre feels overdone and, well, a little bit boring To me it all looks like the same regurgitated story I blame the terrible police dramas on television they make me yawn when I see how stupid they are I did a two year course in forensic science, and it never ceases to amaze me how the writers of these television shows think that wearing gloves will therefore mean that the crime scene is not contaminated by the otherwise exposed investigators Never mind the fact that they are trampling over evidence, leaving their own hairs and jumping to ridiculous conclusions based upon preliminary testing These things are horribly inaccurate to the professional field they are always forensically inaccurate So, regardless of how this is handled in modern crime books, I always avoid them to avoid similar annoyance This, however, isn t a modern crime book This is a murder mystery set in the political upheaval of Tudor England The churches are undergoing Dissolution, hence the title of the book This, to me, sounded utterly fantastic I mean, at last, a crime book that I want to read I have a real interest in the Tudor period of history It was a reign that changed the face of England I mean, imagine how different the country would be today if King Henry VIII never broke with Rome, and with the Pope Arguments between branches of Christianity may never have become so heated King Charles I may never have been executed for his Catholic sympathies, amongst other things The Dissolution with the Catholic Church changed the face of England forever along with its sequential history Murder in the monastery This book combines a classic whodunit scenario with the intrigue of the sixteenth century it is brilliantly handled At the heart of this book is a very human character Matthew Shardlake Shardlake is a commissioner sent, by Thomas Cromwell, to investigate his predecessor s murder at a monastery Shardlake has a twisted back so is consequently spurned by the religious zealots of the time This immediately drew upon my sympathy He is obviously no different to his peers, but for all their supposed enlightenment, toward the religious reforms, they still shallowly judge someone for their appearance It s a cruel world This along with Shardlake s unsuccessfulness with the ladies, results in a very damaged yet resolute commissioner This is not Thomas More s Utopia, a nation of innocent savages waiting only for God s word to complete their happiness This is a violent realm, stewed in the corruption of a decadent church Thus, his investigation is no easy affair He is met with disgust, scorn and damn right revulsion at every turn But, he overcomes it He is used to it, and has risen far above it He gets on with his job and sets out to find what caused the death of a supposedly innocent man Shardlake is clever, compassionate and determined He has the nose of a bloodhound He analyses the facts in a pragmatic way he doesn t jump to conclusion and only delivers a realistic approach to the crime He questions everything, which left me in a continuous state of suspense until he found his answers The historical setting of the churches, the towns and the people are brought to life The turmoil the age is captured along with the skulduggery of its inhabitants Thomas Cromwell is portrayed as a mean old brute which is quite interesting after reading Hilary Mantel s version of him in which he is sympathised with, greatly The scenario in this book kept me questioning everything At one point there were at least seven suspects Each had a strong motive As the focus of the suspicion changed, so did the plausibility of each motive I am proud to say, that my initial guess was half right I ll say no on that regard, other than this had a really intense ending It s a great read Shardlake series1 Dissolution A suspense filled four stars 2 Dark Fire A dark 3.