C. J. Sansom


".. another excellent book from C J Sansom"


In Tudor London, Henry the Eighth attempts to woo Catherine Parr for his sixth wife, while religious conservatives begin to gain ascendancy at court. Lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, is asked to help a young boy who has been overcome with religious mania and incarcerated in Bedlam for his own safety. Appalled by the boy's treatment and living conditions he agrees to help. However, his close friend, Roger Elliard, is suddenly found murdered and Shardlake agrees to help his widow find the murderer.

It soon becomes apparent that the killing is part of a series of murders that have begun to sweep London. The killer appears to be staging a reconstruction of the doom-laden passages in the book of Revelation and each murder takes place in a horrific fashion. More appallingly, it seems that the murderer knows that Shardlake, and his assistant Barak are on his trail and both they and the people around them are now in danger. Closer to home, however, Shardlake and Barak have domestic problems to distract them for their work.

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This is another excellent book from C J Sansom. With Sansom's Shardlake series the reader gets a strong sense of history moving forward and of the rise and fall of different factions at court. In his latest book, the King is no longer the robust mocking figure of previous books. He is now ailing and looking for a queen to be a companion in his old age. This provides a useful historical background to the novel, imbuing the book with a sense of a country in turmoil. Sansom also always gives his books a strong sense of the religious politics of the time with ascendancy at court oscillating between rival camps. This religious context is particularly well explored in this new book - as suggested by the title. The final book of the Bible provides rich pickings for a murder theme and the murders are suitably, but not gratuitously, gory. As always, it is the character of Matthew Shardlake that provides the most powerful element in the book. He is both touchy and self assured and I particularly liked the introduction of a romantic theme in his personal life. This contrasted well with the deterioration of Barak's marriage and gave the book a human element amidst the gore. It is these personal touches that elevate a book above ordinary detective fiction, and I particularly liked the character of Timothy, introduced into the Shardlake household whilst pining the loss of his only friend – a horse. Highly recommended to all existing Sansom readers and to those new to the Shardlake series.

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