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Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake #1)

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  13,190 ratings  ·  1,140 reviews
Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Supreme Head of the Church and the country is waking up to savage new laws, rigged trials and the greatest network of informers ever seen. Under the order of Thomas Cromwell, a team of commissioners is sent through the country to investigate the monasteries. There can only be one outcome: the monasteries are to be dissolved.

But on the Suss...more
Paperback, 443 pages
Published April 1st 2011 by Pan MacMillan (first published 2003)
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5.0 stars. This story grabbed me from the very first page and kept me engaged throughout the entire book. I do not read as much historical/crime fiction as I do science fiction/fantasy but this book might cause that to change given how much I enjoyed this. I am a bit if a history buff and I was drawn to this story because it is set during the English Reformation, a period I was interested to learn more about.

The main character, Matthew Shardlake, is a hunchback, English lawyer working for Thoma...more
Jan 16, 2012 Mark rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mark by: Stephen and Tracy
What can I say. Really exciting, really atmospheric and the novel for which the phrase 'page turner' was created. Its the first in a series, in which i shall most definitely be heavily indulging, revolving around a well drawn character called Matthew Shardlake who, when the novel begins, is an ardent if gentle reformer working for Thomas Cromwell just as, with the death of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII is set free to vomit his horrible nastiness over a few more women.

Shardlake, a lawyer who struggles...more
Sam Piper
Looking at the reviews here, it seems that this book is getting hammered because it cries out to be compared with other powerhouses of books.

Set in the 1500s of Henry VIII, it clearly bears parallels with Wolf Hall which is set two wives earlier. It has to be said that it lacks the beauty of the language of that novel or its subtle, multilayered realistic characterisation. Mantell's Cromwell is a far more engaging and convincing narrator than Sansom's Shardlake.

Similarly, set in an isolated mon...more
I loved this story. I haven't read too many historical mysteries but I can't imagine them getting much better than this. Matthew Shardlake is such a terrific main character that I find myself wanting to follow him around no matter what he's doing. Not quite as smart as Sherlock Holmes but a million times more likeable. Plus the fact that he is a hunchback just seems to make him all the more appealing.

And I didn't even mention the writing and the mystery itself, both of which are excellent.
Lynne King
I was very disappointed in this book as it came highly recommended by friends; four of whom I had known since I was a teenager. In fact I trusted their judgement so much, I purchased five books from this series at the same time.

I should have loved this book as it's about the Tudor period, which has always fascinated me; there were so many intrigues going on and one never knew who was going to end up in the Tower, and the central character Matthew Shardlake, the hunchback lawyer, was very interes...more
I don't often read books set during this period of English history. I don't know why. But I am glad that I have started. Well, perhaps I should say, that I am glad that I have discovered CJ Sansom because he really brought Henry Tudor's England alive for me. It is that which has made me glad to start reading books of this era.
As a crime thriller, this book was a little dull. Hence the 4 stars and not 5 stars. I didn't enjoy it so much for the crime solving. It was Sansom's descriptions of Englan...more
As a work of historical fiction, this deserves six stars. As a mystery, it was very good, but it was overlong in places. The ending was wonderful, and unfortunately, kept me awake at 3am listening to this, rather than falling back to sleep. A sign of a great book though. All in all, I learned a lot from this book, and really enjoyed it. I'll definitely continue with the series. The author has a PhD in history and really knows his stuff. Lots of background, lots of period detail here, and if you...more
Gerald Sinstadt
Matthew Shardlake, sent by Thomas Cromwell to solve a murder at a monastery on the coast of Sussex, may come to hold a place among the most credible of fictional detectives. There seems to be an assumption among some readers that the investigator-with-weaknesses has become a cliché; but doesn't that miss the point that none of us is perfect? Have we forgotten that Sherlock Holmes was a drug addict? In simple terms, Shardlake is a member of the human race. His physical deformity - he is a hunchba...more
Lynda Hunter
I first read this book four years ago and have read it again twice since. This series of books is my favourite series of all time. I actually think this one "Dissolution" is probably just about my favourite. I could not believe how completely hooked I got on the main character, the lawyer, Shardlake. He is a sombre reserved man, especially in this first book, but I loved him within the first 25 pages. The fact that he is so cruelly ridiculed because he is a hunchback probably had some impact on...more
I've been meaning to read this for ages. It's been tempting me more ever since I started volunteering at the tiny local library, so finally I picked it up -- and I'm glad. I think I needed it, something of a palate cleanser, something a bit different. It really was absorbing: I read it in great big chunks, and didn't want to put it down. It's in the same sort of tradition as Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael, I suppose: a murder mystery set in a particular political period, somewhat shaped by that p...more
A determined scholar could write a very interesting study of the relation between mystery novels and theology. The inexorable, Calvinist feel of the movement from mystery to revelation, or the scholastic faith in reason and goodness of the detective—all these things and more, suggest an eerie connectedness.

Dissolution only strengthens the association. The story’s detective-protagonist, Matthew Shardlake, is a hunchback lawyer working for Thomas Cromwell during the reign of Henry VIII. At the ope...more
A moderately enjoyable page-turner. Sansom's historical and legal background give authority to his research, but do nothing to lighten his prose, which never rises above the pedestrian, or to leaven his characters. Where Dissolution really falls down for me is that Sansom tries and fails to balance modern sensitivities with Tudor sensibilities—rather than creating characters with authentic views of women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and homosexuals, Sansom describes people whose...more
I won't miss this BBC dramatization:

Winter, 1537, the South Kent Coast. Thomas Cromwell's trusted lawyer-detective, Matthew Shardlake, arrives at Scarnsea monastery with orders to investigate the brutal killing of a King's Commissioner, Robin Singleton. As he begins to meet the prime suspects, it soon becomes clear that the case will not be as simple to solve as he had hoped.

I must agree with Hayes, the book is much better than this dramatization.
Susan Johnson
I was watching Craig Ferguson one night and he mentioned he was enjoing his CJ Sansom book. What could a night owl do but run to Amazaon books and look up the author? Who would not be excited about reading a book about a hunchback lawyer investigating murders at a monastery during the relgious upheaval times under King Henry VIII? It was entertaining that I sat up reading it instead of watching Craig Ferguson and I liked it so much that I have ordered the second one. I can't wait
 ~☆ Alice☆~
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
This was the best book I read in 2007.

Also the best historical mystery I have ever read.
An engaging and fairly entertaining Tudor mystery yarn. I admit, I'm spoiled because I've previously read SOVEREIGN, the third in the Shardlake series, and it's a far better book than this one. This one was a little disappointing in comparison to that.

The pluses: Sansom's writing style. His way of bringing the sights and sounds to life is just as effective as it was in the later novel. The setting of the snowbound monastery is eerie and desolate, and Sansom evokes a little of the paranoia that w...more
M.G. Mason
Continuing a recent trend for historical based crime thriller, C.J. Sansom has chosen the turmoil of Henry VIII’s reformation to start his series about the criminal investigations of a lawyer named Matthew Shardlake. Set in 1536, just before the dissolution of the monasteries, Shardlake is sent by Thomas Cromwell to the (fictional) abbey of Scarnsea to investigate the murder of a commissioner who was there evaluating the monastery’s properties. Shardlake is pro-reform and doesn’t take too kindly...more
Reasonably good crime thriller set in Tudor England at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries (1537). Matthew Shardlake is one of Thomas Cromwell's commissioners who is charged with investigating the death of another commissioner at Scarnsea, a Benedictine Monastery on the south coast. Shardlake is a hunchback and physically weak; another addition to the detectives with imperfections genre. It is pretty well written, a bit flowery at times, but an easy read and not too demanding.
I found...more
This is Tudor whodunit, set in the reign of Henry VIII. Shardlake is a commissionaire for Lord Cromwell and is asked to go to a monastery to investigate the murder of the last commissionaire who was there. He arrives with his assistant and sets about trying to find the murderer. Whilst he is there the body count starts to rise. He is suspicious of the motives behind why the monks are doing certain things, and he starts to get under the skin of the abbot and prior in the hope of flushing out the...more
Dissolution is in my mind a typical crime novel in form, set in late 1530s Tudor England during the time of Henry VIII. Told in the first person by Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer and agent for Thomas Cromwell, who was in real life the King's Chief minister at the time, the novel details Shardlake's attempts to solve the murder of another of Cromwell's agents in a monastery under pressure to close due pressures brought by the reformation at the time.

In the novel, Sansom does an excellent job in recr...more
A friend of mine recommended this book to me. When I first read the description about a murder mystery that takes place in Tudor England, I just assumed that we'd have the same old famous characters - Henry VIII, Queen Anne, etc. But to my delight, the main characters and history that are touched upon in this novel involved people and places and situations of which I was not previously aware. Sure, the King Henry story is part of the bigger picture in this book - but there was more going on in E...more
You know how in crime/detective stories the protagonist often has a 'back-up piece'? Well this book was my back-up book for ages - sitting on the iPad for those times when I was on a journey or stuck somewhere without a real book. Two days training up in London gave me a couple of hours of train journey and I finally got stuck into Dissolution.
A good book full of history and enough pace to carry it off. An interesting lead character in Shardlake and it's set in a Monastery in around 1537, so wh...more
This book seemed almost like a sequel to Hilary Mantel's book Wolf Hall, although it's much easier to read and a very good murder mystery indeed! Now I can't wait to read Bring Up the Bodies to find out more about the lives of Cromwell and his crazy, quite evil King.
Not a great murder mystery, but pretty good historical fiction, set in one of my favorite periods in English history. The writing was very smooth, and the author managed to include lots of historical details without bogging down the story. I'll read the next in this series.

I liked that Shardlake worked for Lord Cromwell, but I thought the inclusion of the other famous figures into the story felt a little forced.

enjoyable historical thriller based in sussex in the time of henry VIII time where the main character is under the control of thomas cromwell to seek the dissolution of the monastaries and to solve the murder of the commissioner, fast paced and page turning , looking forward now to reading second part
Rachel Hawes
I love crime novels. I love historical novels (when they are actually historically accurate - goodbye Philippa Gregory). I love historical detective fiction (and there's a surprising amount about). Therefore I love the Shardlake books - end of. I just wish I'd read them in order....
an inspired choice of hero - a hunchback lawyer - lonely and loyal - with strong principles in an unprincipled time - you feel you're there in the filthy streets, in the times where one wrong word could send you to the Tower... I read one after the other of his Shardlake books
BBC Radio 4 "15-Minute Drama"

Very very good, but probably a shadow of its written self, which I will read before too much time goes by.
Lance Greenfield
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...more
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Tudor History Lovers: * May 2014 - Dissolution, by C.J. Sansom 6 24 Apr 16, 2014 11:53AM  
Historical Fictio...: Group Series: Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake #1) 19 153 Dec 04, 2013 11:09AM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Overview 9 14 Nov 29, 2013 02:57PM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Thomas Cromwell 8 15 Nov 18, 2013 08:42AM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Overview 20 17 Nov 17, 2013 05:32PM  
Brilliant book with 2 flaws. 25 281 Nov 17, 2013 12:01PM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Speculations on the Killer - Warning, Potential Spoilers! 10 15 Nov 15, 2013 08:03AM  
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Christopher John "C.J." Sansom is an English writer of crime novels. He was born in 1952 and was educated at the University of Birmingham, where he took a BA and then a PhD in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he decided to retrain as a solicitor. He practised for a while in Sussex as a lawyer for the disadvantaged, before quitting in order to work full-time as a writer.
He came to promi...more
More about C.J. Sansom...
Revelation (Matthew Shardlake, #4) Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake, #2) Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake, #3) Winter in Madrid Heartstone (Matthew Shardlake, #5)

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“In worshipping their nationhood men worship themselves and scorn others, and that is no healthy thing.” 25 likes
“It seems a universal rule in this world that people will always look for victims and scapegoats, does it not? Especially at times of difficulty and tension.” 5 likes
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