C. J. Sansom


"..Sansom has produced another magnificent book that is as rich as a Tudor tapestry"


It is nearing the end of Henry VIII's reign. The King is physically weak but still strong in his mind. He is dallying with both the traditionalists and the reformers in religion and fortunes flow one way and then the other in the struggle for power. What is at stake (in more ways than one) is the control of the future King Edward VI.

Shardlake has returned from his harrowing time in Portsmouth when he saw many friends and colleagues die as the Mary Rose sank. He still suffers flashbacks to that awful time. When he is called to see Queen Catherine Parr he has many misgivings. He harbours fond feelings for the Queen, whom he has known from the time when she was simple Lady Catherine Latimer, but their previous meetings involved danger both then both and it was resolved that she would not involve him in any more dangerous meetings. Something very important must have occurred for the Queen to summon Shardlake to her private apartments in Whitehall Palace.

What he finds is that the Queen fears for her life. She has written a book confessing her personal Protestant faith and it has gone missing. In this time of plotting and intrigue this could lead to her being accused of treachery against the King and to her execution. She wishes Shardlake to employ his investigative skills to retrieve the manuscript.

The dangerous search on which he embarks takes him around the poorest parts of London, the equally dangerous Palace of Whitehall and the terrifying Tower of London. He puts himself and friends in danger whilst encountering desperate men from both Catholic and Protestant factions. There are also those who swing from one side to the other for their own personal gain.

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Shardlake is a brilliant character who continues to enthral and intrigue as he develops throughout the tempestuous reign of Henry VIII. As Henry grows from a heroic and golden youth to a troubled physical wreck, Shardlake also matures and learns to live with contradictions and confusions, trusting only in the loyalty and goodness of his friends. The book is full of wonderful pen pictures of characters, good and bad who come alive, even though the force of religious conviction which drives them to action may not be one generally familiar to us in a Christian context. The historical background is unfailingly interesting and compelling; the architectural and social detail absolutely fascinating. I was with Shardlake as he rode from Chancery Lane to the magnificence of Whitehall Palace. I was intrigued to find that the magnificent portrait of Henry and his family with the two fools (now in Hampton Court) was originally at Whitehall. This is a magnificent series and Sansom has produced another magnificent book that is as rich as a Tudor tapestry. I look forward to Shardlake's struggles with the later Tudors. 'Lamentation' is that amazing, if I could give this more than five spyglasses then I would! Outstanding.

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