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Vicar General Thomas Cromwell is sending his man, Matthew Shardlake, to investigate a brutal murder. As he brings Reformation to England, Cromwell is trying to subtly force monasteries to “voluntarily” dissolve, and the man he sent to the monastery in Scarnsea has been killed. Shardlake needs to find the killer–and try to convince the abbot to close the monastery.
This was really good historical fiction. I was drawn into the story immediately. I can’t claim to know much about the period, so I don’t know how accurate it is. What I do know is that every time I picked this book back up, I was immediately transported to sixteenth-century England. I don’t know how Sansom did it, but his descriptions left me feeling that I had just visited a cold, snowy, monastery on the coast, where the monks live a little too well and know more than they are telling.
Shardlake was hugely likable. He’s a jaded, acerbic, lonely, humpback lawyer who is still somewhat naive. He fervently believes in Reformation, but he can’t see that the road Cromwell is taking isn’t necessarily in the best interests of the country.
The mystery was solid. I never had any idea what was going on until the very end. But once I found out, it all made sense and fit together.
My biggest complaint? The color puce is mentioned five times in the book. Who ever says “puce?” It really stood out to me and got on my nerves. Does the fact that I counted them give that away? But that’s a tiny thing to complain about. I will definitely be reading the rest of this series.
I recommend this one to readers interested in Reformation England, fans of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (although I’ve only seen the movie), and I think it would also work for those who liked Caleb Carr’s The Alienist.
Read an excerpt.
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Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!
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