Genre: historical fiction; historical mystery; mystery
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Series: Dissolution; Dark Fire; Sovereign; Revelation
How I acquired this book: I purchased it.
Book Blurb: Spring, 1543. King Henry VIII is wooing Lady Catherine Parr, whom he wants for his sixth wife. But this time the object of his affections is resisting. Archbishop Cranmer and the embattled Protestant faction at court are watching keenly, for Lady Catherine is known to have reformist sympathies.
Matthew Shardlake, meanwhile, is working on the case of a teenage boy, a religious maniac locked in the Bedlam hospital for the insane. Should he be released to his parents, when his terrifying actions could lead to him being burned as a heretic?
When an old friend is horrifically murdered Shardlake promises his widow, for whom he has long had complicated feelings, to bring the killer to justice. His search leads him to both Cranmer and Catherine Parr - and with the dark prophecies of the Book of Revelation. As London's Bishop Bonner prepares a purge of Protestants Shardlake, together with his assistant, Jack Barak, and his friend, Guy Malton, follow the trail of a series of horrific murders that shake them to the core, and which are already bringing frenzied talk of witchcraft and a demonic possession - for what else would the Tudor mind make of a serial killer . . .
My Review: Matthew Shardlake may have sworn off politics, but the murder of a close friend forces him to work for Bishop Cramner once more. Catholic leaning traditionalists now have Henry VIII's ear, and Cramner is attempting to keep the spirit of Reform alive and preserve his own skin. Matthew, meanwhile, remains a cynical skeptic--but he is determined to bring his friend's killer to justice.
Matthew's assistant, Jack Barak--my favorite character in the series--is front and center but busy wrecking his marriage to Tamasin. Matthew cringes at Jack's carousing and infidelities, but can't find a way to talk some sense into his friend. (Personally, I was ready to smack Jack upside the head.)
Guy, the former monk and current physician, plays a large part here too. He shows considerable insight when he tries to delve into the mind of the mentally ill--but not an ounce of wisdom when it comes to his personal life, much to Matthew's frustration.
The best part of this book--and what keeps me addicted to this series--is the characters and their interactions; in that respect, Sansom is in top form here. A close second is his portrayal of Tudor London and the deadly mixture of religion, politics and persecution that was so characteristic of Henry VIII's reign. The mystery itself is a distant third. It held my interest and kept me guessing, but a couple of points had me furrowing my brow, and another improbable escape had me rolling my eyes.
Still, this is an excellent continuation of the series, and as soon as my budget permits, I'll be buying the next one!
On Kindle: Yes. Find it on Amazon here.