C. J. Sansom


"I have little doubt that you too will be utterly engrossed and captivated into this book; it is a genuinely wonderful achievemnt."


In this fifth book of the series, Shardlake has lost his housekeeper, Joan, to influenza and her replacement , Steward Gridiron , is not a success. Dorothy, the widow of his good friend, Roger Elliard, has left London, leaving Shardlake missing their close friendship. The French, taking advantage of Henry’s unpopularity in Europe, are threatening to invade.

When Shardlake is summoned to Hampton Court by the Queen, Catherine Parr, he is given the task of investigating the apparent suicide of Michael, the son of one of the Queen’s old servants. This takes him to a manor close to Portsmouth where the French invasion fleet are rumoured to intend to land. At the same time he has a private investigation of his own involving the estate of a woman locked up in Bedlam who believes herself in love with him. He takes with him Jack Barak, who is avoiding being recruited into the King’s army by travelling on official court business.

Against the background of an England anxious about the future and still with underlying tensions on religious matters, Shardlake uses his considerable intellect and knowledge of people to find the truth about Michael’s death. This leads him into a web of deceit and lies, all revolving about money. The incarceration of Ellen in Bedlam is also not straightforward and involves those at the heart of power in Henry’s England. Danger is very close to Shardlake.

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This another fascinating, engrossing and totally satisfying tale from CJ Sansom. Shardlake continues his life as a lawyer in the Court of Requests, but the harsh reality of life at the time has meant that some good friends have gone. The tense and anxious atmosphere of England awaiting the French invasion is so clearly conveyed, along with the details of the longbow practice and recruitment to the King’s force. The dangers and privations of a journey at that time along with tensions and worries of the enlisted men are extremely vivid. Recent research into the sinking of the King’s warship, the Mary Rose is cleverly incorporated into the fast moving and horrifying plot. CJ Sansom brilliantly imagines the feelings and panic of that disaster and we feel that we are really there. This, I think, is the crux of the excellence of these books. The descriptions of places and the understanding of human reactions mean that this is a totally believable tale that carries you back nearly five hundred years. I have little doubt that you too will be utterly engrossed and captivated into this book; it is a genuinely wonderful achievemnt.

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