Dissolution: the first book in the best-selling Shardlake series. It is 1537, a time of revolution that sees the greatest changes in England since 1066.
Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Supreme Head of the Church. The country is waking up to savage new laws, rigged trials and the greatest network of informers ever seen. And under the orders of Thomas Cromwell, a team of commissioners is sent throughout the country to investigate the monasteries.
There can only be one outcome: dissolution. But on the Sussex coast, at the monastery of Scarnsea, events have spiralled out of control. Cromwell's Commissioner, Robin Singleton, has been found dead, his head severed from his body. His horrific murder is accompanied by equally sinister acts of sacrilege.
Matthew Shardlake, lawyer and long-time supporter of Reform, has been sent by Cromwell to uncover the truth behind the dark happenings at Scarnsea. But investigation soon forces Shardlake to question everything that he hears, and everything that he intrinsically believes....
©2003 C. J. Sansom (P)2014 Pan Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
Read the classics, write your own rules
This novel is so well written that you are immediately sucked into the turbulent world of Tudor England and the dissolution of the monasteries. Prior to this I had not read much historical fiction set within this period - preferring true history to fiction - however through the use of Shardlake's role as lawyer and his outsider status derived from his hunch back Sansom is able to present the whole scale of Tudor society rather than focusing solely on the highest classes. Real insight is therefore given into the lives of ordinary people and new perspectives on the upper classes than those shown in the non-fiction I have read.
Shardlake himself I think - despite a tendency to appraise all women as either 'pretty' or 'not-pretty' he is a very human character. His sympathies may sometimes seem a little out of sync with the historical time in which he lives but, by suspending ones disbelief, this only serves to make his character more endearing.
Although yet to appear until later in the series; Barrack (not sure that's spelt correctly - one problem with audio reading) was performed so well by Steven Crossley. Although, speaking of the entire series, I did notice that the narrator changes his style completely by book 4 - so much so I was convinced the novels were no longer being performed by Steven Crossley. I cannot understand why this was done as it interrupted the flow of the series somewhat while I tried to get used to the new character voices.
Avid reader of murder and crime mysteries, and legal thrillers too. I also enjoy humorous, observational writing.
I enjoyed this immensely. The historical background is well drawn and the issues and ideas at stake are dealt with clearly and with suitable accuracy. The writing has just enough idiom from the time to make the narrative convincing, and the performance exploits this to the full. I am no a great fan of Shardlake!
I enjoyed the balance of period writing and whodunnit story. The historical elements add interest but never take over the story.
He really brought to life the character of Matthew Shardlake and provided distinctive voices for the other characters, too. He provides a menacing voice for Thomas Cromwell which helps to evoke the fear that pervaded that period.
I loved the books, I've read all of them. But the narration of the series is terrible. The readers voice sounds so dull and boring; it's totally wrong for the character of Shardlake. Steven Crossley's intonation is incorrect for the text. And there are far too many pauses. I'm afraid he ruins the books completely for me, and I read 3 in a weekend I was so engrossed. Excellent author and story; appalling narration.
Enjoyed the story very much but disagree with the portrayal of Cromwell. It is only my opinion but I feel William Cromwell has been blacken in the way Richard 111 has been. This does not distract from the book in any way.
Dissolution is a fine novel. It is Umberto Eco's The Name Of The Rose in an English setting during the Reformation. As an English Catholic, the Reformation was a disappointing time in history albeit it a fascinating one. If you have read The Name Of The Rose (the benchmark for medieval murder mysteries) then it may detract a little from this entertaining piece of fiction. Moreover, it's not quite as good as the author's last novel Lamentation which is one of my favourite novels of all-time. Despite the above two reasons, I still rate it 5/5. Recommended.
Enjoyed the book, it's the third Shardlake one I've read, and as per usual it shows an unbiased treatment of historical figures with the argument for dissolution and Cromwell's character both being well represented (if you believe him to be the mix between philanthropist and self interested reformist he is so often presented as).
it would be nice to see Shardlake have a bit of luck on the he relationship front occasionally though.
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