Sunday, March 06, 2011

Dissolution -- C. J. Sansom

It's the 16th century, and Henry VIII is dissolving the monasteries in England. At one of them, his emissary is murdered, and Thomas Cromwell sends Matthew Sharlake, a lawyer, to investigate. Shardlake takes along his young assistant, Mark Poer, who's a source of trouble because he's not as convinced as Shardlake about many things. Shardlake wants to believe that what he's doing is right, the Cromwell is right, that a better world will result, and Poer causes him to doubt.

Poer also falls for Alice, the only young woman in the monastery, as does Shardlake, which is another problem. Poer is young, handsome, well formed. Shardlake is older, not nearly as handsome, and a hunchback.

The monks are a sorry lot, for the most part, and they resent Shardlake's presence. They help him grudgingly, and any one of them might be a killer. The investigation takes longer than Cromwell would like, and Shardlake is likely to fall out of favor. The weather is cold, the monastery is dreary, and there aren't many light moments. But the mystery is engaging, and the details of life at the monastery and in Tudor England are fascinating. It's no wonder this novel was nominated for a number of awards.

You're probably going to be ahead of Shardlake on at least half of the solution, but the resolution is satisfactory. The title refers to more than the monasteries, as becomes obvious before you've read too far.

I don't read a lot of historical mysteries, but since George Kelley recommended this series highly, I thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did.


Janet Rudolph said...

Loved this book. Great series, too!

George said...

I agree with Janet. Each book in the series gets better and better. I knew very little about this time period and reading C. J. Sansom is a painless way to learn about it. I'm glad I don't live in the 16th Century!