Historical backlog

In the 2000s I read the first two Shardlake books, followed by book 3 in 2011.

The Shardlake series is a series of historical mystery novels by C. J. Sansom, set in the reign of Henry VIII in the 16th century. The series’ protagonist is the hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake, […]. Shardlake works on commission initially from Thomas Cromwell in Dissolution and Dark Fire, Archbishop Thomas Crannmer in Sovereign and Revelation, and Queen Catherine Parr in Heartstone and Lamentation. The seventh book, Tombland, was published in October 2018.

Wikipedia

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake, #1)
by C.J. Sansom

This is the first one of the Matthew Shardlake books. It was very, very good! Good suspense, pretty gory, I kept going “Ewwww!” Sansom likes to be descriptive and he does it well. Not only for yucky, violent moments, but also descriptions of characters, smells, sounds, sights and situations. Very good.

Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake, #2)
by C.J. Sansom

Pretty solid historical crime novel. Very atmospheric. I wonder how anybody ever managed to live in London long enough for it to develop into my favourite city on the planet. The stink and disgusting sights described are priceless. The crime story was sufficiently tricky for me not to guess who-dunnit until the end. Every now and then it got a bit tedious, reading about Shardlake riding from one interview to the next interview to the next interview to the next interview…. Did I mention that he was riding around London a lot? And across it? And along it. And…. you get the picture.

Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake, #3)
by C.J. Sansom

Mysterious things are afoot in the town of York. A conspiracy of major proportions is tucked away somewhere. 

As usual with Sansom, the story is alive with the sounds and smells of Tudor England. Descriptions are excellent. It’s easy to get immersed into his world, you can almost feel, taste and especially smell it.

We walked to Stonegate as the sun rose up and the city came to life, keeping under the eaves as people opened their windows and threw the night’s piss into the streets.

Page 122 of my edition

There is a surprising amount of swearing going on for historical novels.

When I read his books, it always makes me sad to contemplate how many beautiful things Henry VIII destroyed with his dissolution.

I keep jumping back to the computer to read up on historic events and characters mentioned in the books, it’s always a very educational experience for me.

The whole question of succession regarding Richard III, the princes in the tower and the War of the Roses has always confused me a lot and now I get something else confusing thrown into the mix.

The last 200 pages dragged on a bit for me. At times Sansom’s books seem to be a little too cosy, until the next twist hits you and the plot moves back to nail biting suspense.


And although I rated these novels between 4 and 5 stars, I never continued the series. I wasn‘t in the mood anymore for historical crime novels. Book 4, Revelation by C.J. Sansom, has been sitting on my shelf since 2015. One of my personal challenges for this year is to tackle my TBR pile. So, maybe this year, let‘s see if I still like Shardlake!