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It is 1537, a time of revolution that sees the greatest changes in England since 1066. Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Supreme Head of the Church. The country is waking up to savage new laws, rigged trials and the greatest network of informers ever seen. And under the orders of Thomas Cromwell, a team of commissioners is sent throughout the country to investigate the monasteries. There can only be one outcome: dissolution. But on the Sussex coast, at the monastery of Scarnsea, events have spiralled out of control.
Cromwell's Commissioner, Robin Singleton, has been found dead, his head severed from his body. His horrific murder is accompanied by equally sinister acts of sacrilege. Matthew Shardlake, lawyer and long-time supporter of Reform, has been sent by Cromwell to uncover the truth behind the dark happenings at Scarnsea. But investigation soon forces Shardlake to question everything that he hears, and everything that he intrinsically believes...
About the Author
C. J. Sansom was educated at Birmingham University, where he took a BA and then a Ph.D. in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he retrained as a solicitor and practised in Sussex, until becoming a full-time writer. Sansom is the bestselling author of the acclaimed Shardlake series, the Spanish Civil War thriller Winter in Madrid and most recently the lauded alternative history novel Dominion. He lives in Sussex.
I actually bought this as a gift for a girl I was dating who is a lawyer, just like the protagonist. She was suspicious of historical fiction as a genre and I said this series would change her mind, especially as it's set in medieval England, another area of interest for her. She dumped me pretty much straight after handing this over, so no idea how it was received. While I hope the pages gave her many paper cuts, I, however, have enjoyed all of the books I've read in this series.
The solution to a gruesome murder and apparent animal sacrifice at a historic monastery at Scarnsea in 1537 forms one of the most entertaining, gripping, and educational reads you will ever undertake. Thomas Cromwell is a figure that stands out on his own right in the annals of English History, so it is no surprise that C. J. Sansom has used him and the era he featured so strongly in as a back drop for a truly great mystery. Of course the book is not just a murder mystery; it acts too, as a brilliantly drawn history lesson when the fate, and soul of Britain was up for grabs and being fought over by two very powerful christian groups (and of course, that is putting things mildly!!!) The concept of violence and devil worship within holy walls is not a new one, but when done properly it provides the reader with a read so compelling, powerful, and full of atmosphere that every copy of the book sold should come with a towel to wipe up the atmosphere as it drips from every page. This is a classic whodunit, complete with a famed (and cornered) cast of characters (suspects), set in an environment that, if not haunted, might as well be. A self contained monastic village, complete with its own set of cloisters, cemetery, ancient crypts, and boggy marsh is enough to send shivers up the spine of mystery lovers everywhere, but when you add in to the mix concepts of fanatically individualistic commitments to religion, sin, corruption of the soul, perversion, and men (and their minds) ruined from confession by torture (this *is* the 16th century, fellow book lovers...) then you can just imagine how deep and wonderful the story telling and characterisation is. Speaking of characterisation, the mystery is destined to be solved by the most unique crime fighting pair to hit the reader's imagination since Batman and Robin. Matthew Shardlake is one of London's top law men. He is partnered with young ladies magnet who is struggling to hold his feet in this particularly gruesome environment. For the record, I am reading the truly stunning Tenth Anniversary Paperback version, as published by Pan Paperbacks in the UK, and it is quite seriously one of the most gorgeous books you will ever come across. Printed with a beautiful black waxy cover with embossed golden print, the edges of the book's paper are also covered in black ink. Obviously the look was to reflect that of a Mid 16th Century bible, and clearly the publishers succeeded in that respect. But the book is essentially about finding the killer. But guess what... I don't really care! I am having too much fun travelling through time to worry about minor details like that. Who knew history and religious education could be this much fun? BFN Greggorio!
Series: The Shardlake Series
Number Of Pages: 480
Published: 10th October 2013
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.7 x 12.9 x 2.9
Weight (kg): 0.35
Edition Number: 10
Edition Type: Special edition