Think murder mystery meets the 16th century and you have C J Sansom’s crime thriller nailed.
Dissolution follows a lawyer by the name of Matthew Shardlake who, appointed by Thomas Cromwell as a Commissioner, is sent to investigate the murder of his colleague Robin Singleton, at a monastery in Scarnsea. The monks are well known amongst the townfolk, but not for their charity or compassion for those less fortunate than themselves. The waters surrounding the recent death are muddied so to speak, and what should be a simple task proves difficult – the monks dislike Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, and are fearful that Shardlake’s presence spells the end of life as they know it.
At the very heart of the novel lies intrigue and artifice, skilfully intermingled with historical realism. The characters are authentic, convincing and very much full of life – Dissolution is far from an outdated, dull account of this tumultuous period of time in British history. Similarly, not once are the historical elements of the novel complicated by Sansom; what could potentially be overwhelming is instead handled with precision, and explained without distracting from the narrative itself.
Also, like any classic ‘whodonnit’, Sansom keeps the reader guessing as to who the culprit is right until the very end. Rest assured though, there are a few surprises along the way to keep you on your toes.
Dissolution and the rest of the Shardlake series have been well received by critics and readers alike. So, would I recommend it, even to those of you who might never have thought of reading a historical novel before? You bet I would – in fact I can’t wait to read the next in the series!
If you’ve read it, or are about to, let me know what you think in the comments below!