A thrilling Tudor detective tale
Having not been overly impressed by Winter in Madrid
, I was a little bit worried about picking up another book by the same author, but this one was a bargain buy, which I couldn’t resist. I am so happy that I did pick it up, as it is exactly the sort of book that I really enjoy. It is historical fiction which has a strong story with strong characters. I believe that the historical dates, personalities and links are all fairly accurate, but it would not bother me in the least if there were a few errors. I am not about to check.
Thomas Cromwell, who is Henry VIII’s Vicar General, orders Matthew Shardlake, a high-ranking and hunch-backed lawyer, to proceed to the monastery of Scarnsea on the Sussex coast, to investigate the death of Robin Singleton, who was the King’s Commissioner. Shardlake is also awarded the King’s Commission, so that he steps straight into the post left vacant the murder victim whose killer he must seek. This makes him very nervous, yet determined to find the truth without coming to any harm. I freely admit that it made me, the reader, very nervous too.
Shardlake can trust nobody except, perhaps, his for trusty assistant.
The way that the story is told, in the first person singular, opens up the deep-rooted feelings that the main character has about the politics and religious antics (is there any difference?) of the time, and leads the reader into inevitable, parallel lines of thinking. That is very clever, and I love to be challenged on several levels by a work of historical fiction.
There are a few minor irritations. For example, without spoiling anything because this occurs very early on, I wondered why Shardlake failed to investigate the origins of the black cock that was found beheaded on the altar of the monastery chapel.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes this genre, and nothing is going to stop me from moving on to the next adventure in this series.