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Summary

Tombland is the seventh novel in C. J. Sansom's number one best-selling Shardlake series

Spring, 1549.

Two years after the death of Henry VIII, England is sliding into chaos....

The nominal king, Edward VI, is 11 years old. His uncle Edward Seymour, Lord Hertford, rules as Protector. The extirpation of the old religion by radical Protestants is stirring discontent among the populace while the Protector’s prolonged war with Scotland is proving a disastrous failure and threatens to involve France. Worst of all, the economy is in collapse, inflation rages and rebellion is stirring among the peasantry.

Since the old King’s death, Matthew Shardlake has been working as a lawyer in the service of Henry’s younger daughter, the Lady Elizabeth. The gruesome murder of the wife of John Boleyn, a distant Norfolk relation of Elizabeth’s mother - which could have political implications for Elizabeth - brings Shardlake and his assistant Nicholas Overton to the summer assizes at Norwich. There they are reunited with Shardlake’s former assistant Jack Barak. The three find layers of mystery and danger surrounding the death of Edith Boleyn, as a second murder is committed.

And then East Anglia explodes, as peasant rebellion breaks out across the country. The yeoman Robert Kett leads a force of thousands in overthrowing the landlords and establishing a vast camp outside Norwich. Soon the rebels have taken over the city, England’s second largest.

Barak throws in his lot with the rebels; Nicholas, opposed to them, becomes a prisoner in Norwich Castle; while Shardlake has to decide where his ultimate loyalties lie, as government forces in London prepare to march north and destroy the rebels. Meanwhile he discovers that the murder of Edith Boleyn may have connections reaching into both the heart of the rebel camp and of the Norfolk gentry....

Includes a historical essay from the author on Reimagining Kett's Rebellion.

©2018 C. J. Sansom (P)2018 Macmillan Digital Audio

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Shardlake again entangled in Tudor history

Thank you both to Mr Sansom for the great research and writing and to Steven Crossley for yet another great reading. I sincerely appreciate the work it must have taken from both to bring such a massive work to life.

As others have said, this is yet again a wonderful tapestry of well-researched history interwoven with the adventures of Shardlake and his friends. Enjoyable and believable characters caught up in significant events in Tudor England.

The story pays homage to the struggles of a group of people, many of whom gave their lives in an early attempt to gain some of the freedoms we enjoy today. When I listen to such a detailed account as this and hear the hardships and lack of human rights our ancestors had to endure, it helps me appreciate what we have now and what sacrifices it has taken over the centuries to get us here.

Thank you and like others have said, I hope to enjoy another Shardlake story read by Mr Crossley in the not too distant future.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Superb - Samson’s best yet

Matthew Shardlake investigates a brutal murder in Norfolk while caught up in the widespread popular revolts against corrupt and unjust rulers.

With a wide range of characters from paupers to Royalty, the story is gripping from start to finish.

The backdrop is people’s revolt and war, enriched with lots of detail about the period. Personal touches brining to life the city of Norwich, rhe countryside and the rebel camps.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Be still, my beating heart!

I can't believe I got through this book in 3 days! I absorbed it! Love Matthew Shardlake more than ever and all I can say is: Please, Mr Sansom, release the next book soon.

As always, I love the amount of detail and study entailed in the writing of this book. It lets me so vividly imagine what life in these cruel but fascinating times must have been like. Steven Crossley, as ever, has ensnared me with his voice - I have no idea who he is or what he looks like, but on his voice alone I'd marry him in a heartbeat! Haha!

What ever am I going to do until the next book is released?!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant! 5 star Brilliant!

An excellent Shardlake novel, combining a murder mystery with an in depth historical account of the Norwich rebellion, a pure joy to listen to, and kept me entertain for start to finish, include the 3 hours plus of historical notes at the end, fascinating stuff

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Another Great Book

I think the reviewer above has made a mistake. Steven Crossley has narrated ALL of the unabridged Shardlake books (I have all of them), perhaps whoever ‘Anton’ is narrates the abridged ones and the reviewer made a mistake and thought they’d bought that. Not sure! But Steven Crossley has narrated all of the series and the voices are exactly the same as normal. I write this so no one is put off by reading an erroneous review.

The book itself is great, just as all the others have been, perhaps a little more intricate than some of the previous ones which I personally love. Shardlake himself is the same as ever, a nice mixture of sympathetic and harsh! I’m so glad Barack is still in it as I was disappointed when I thought he may be written out, but he’s here!

It’s nice that we’ve moved forward a little historically too. This particular period isn’t much written about (when Edward was King and Elizabeth just ‘Lady Elizabeth’ and so that made it interesting too.

It’s long, which I also loved, having waited for months for this novel!

If you like the Shardlake series, you will LOVE this. Personally, I would not have bought it if anyone other than Steven Crossley had narrated as I love his characterisations and he is consistent (which doesn't always happen).

It’s also not quite as brutal as some of the other historical novels encompassing this period of history, it has its gruesome bits, but it’s not the main focus of the story.

Enjoy it!

27 of 31 people found this review helpful

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As good as always!

Terrific writing, with superb narration. SC - the voice of Shardlake. I really feel like Shardlake and friends are acquaintances after listening to al his books. A wonderful insight into a turbulent time in England. I highly recommend this audiobook, but if you can, start at book 1. By doing so you will meet and get to know the characters.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Magnificant!

I've read or listened to all the Shardlake novels and enjoyed them all. I think this is the finest yet. Full of memorable characters, a gripping story set in a turbulent time in English history just after the death of Henry VIII. I couldn't stop listening. At the end of the book there is a long section where the author describes his numerous sources for the factual content of his book and fleshes out the political, social and historical background to his story. It's altogether a clever and imaginative working together of real and fictional characters to bring the actual events to life.

The narrator does a splendid job and I cannot understand why one reviewer thought him poor.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Too heavy on the history

I really liked the other Shardlake books but I found this one heavy going. There's a lot of history and not a lot of puzzle solving!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Shardlake in a new reign

We left Matthew Shardlake at the death of that monstrous king Henry VIII. He’s kept his head down (wisely, considering the number of powerful enemies he’s made), but gets roped in to investigating a shocking murder - but while Lady Elizabeth (future queen, still a teenager) wants him to do it properly, her chief advisor wants him to do as little as possible, to avoid scandal. Needless to say, that’s not Shardlake’s way.
As usual he finds himself in one of the most dangerous situations of the age, makes MORE enemies, and endangers his friends.
The story is multilayered, and there are some very nasty villains, both at the level of the murder investigation and in the wider situation.
What a wonderful discovery, a real place called Tombland, respectable residential district of Norwich, which played an important part in Kett’s Rebellion of 1549. Hence the book’s name, so if you are expecting vampires you’ll be disappointed- if not, you should enjoy it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Heavy on the history

I've listened to all the Shardlake books and enjoyed them immensely, waiting patiently for this latest instalment. Happily, the narration is as good as ever and the murder mystery is interesting but I thought it was occasionally overshadowed by the historical context. I didn't know about the Rebellion before listening and at times this felt more like a history lesson than a cracking good story. There are factual essays at the end of the recording that I'm afraid I didn't finish. I would definitely recommend this book because I'm fond of Shardlake and his companions but it didn't grab my imagination as much as the previous books did.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • peter
  • 27-12-18

Dreary, bloated and repetitive

Obviously I am in the minority of readers who found this book impossible to finish. Well, not impossible because as a background noise while doing other more interesting things it works quite well, but as an entertainment it surely demands more patience and forbearance than I for one am willing to accord it.
The characters are almost universally unlikeable and fall into three discernible categories: dithering and ineffectual, those detestable in their resentments, and the mentally incompetent. The hero falls within the first category so we have to follow his failure to notice the obvious for more than 30 hours while the author diverges, pads, props up, repeats (and repeats and repeats) to fill the vacuum left by an amazing lack of imagination - amazing because the basic concept for the series is quite imaginative and original.
For example, the hero is a hunchback, a fact that the author feels it necessary to state at least once a chapter, while inserting phrases such as 'my back ached', 'my back was hurting', 'my back was painful', 'my back was giving me discomfort' so frequently that I was able to predict the next incidences quite accurately. This is the hero's chief personality trait - aside from being incapable of making any progress in his investigation for upwards of 30 dreary hours. Oh, and regularly handing out 'a few shillings' to the economically and mentally challenged denizens of the historical period as the author wishes us to perceive it.
When I find myself sighing and grinding my teeth despite beginning with the best intentions to find the novel as gripping and absorbing as my fellow readers insist, I just have to stop listening. Fortunately I found John Biggins' truly excellent but severely under appreciated series with which to heal the spiritual trauma.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-12-18

Excellent I could not put it down

Loved it as I have all other books in this series. Fiction based on historical fact I can think of a better way of learning some history, and get a feeling of what life was like in the 1500's, and at no point did I feel I was being lecture at or being taught some history, just listening to a very good highly believable story.
Steve Crossley's narration as always is excellent and can't imagine this being read by any other reader.