Prior to reading this book (many years ago), I read few historical fiction novels as I found them lacking in historical accuracy or the plots were tedious in the extreme. This book, and its sequels, kindled my passion, which has not abated, for the vastly improved historical fiction that has been written in recent years.
Set in Tudor England in 1537, Henry VIII has announced the dissolution of the monasteries following his departure from the Catholic Church and the creation of the Church of England with himself as head.
The book’s hero, Matthew Shardlake, is a hunchback lawyer and supporter of the Reform, who has previously worked for Thomas Cromwell, the King’s Chief Minister and spymaster. Shardlake is appointed as a Commissioner to manage the dissolution of the monastery at Scarnsea on the southern coast of England and to investigate the brutal murder of the previous Commissioner.
Sansom’s historical descriptions are excellent and the book (and the rest of the series) is more about religious upheavals and political turbulence due to the King’s fickle policies than a whodunnit, although the detective part of the story is entertaining and relevant.
Irregular History Rating: 9 / 10