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Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake, #1)
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Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake #1)

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  22,612 Ratings  ·  1,648 Reviews
Henry VIII has ordered the dissolution of the monasteries and England is full of informers. At the monastery of Scarnsea, events have spiralled out of control with the murder of Commissioner Robin Singleton. Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer, and his assistant are sent to investigate.
Paperback, 456 pages
Published 2004 by Pan Books (first published 2003)
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Jay It will all be explained sufficiently for you both to form a picture of the immense changes during the dissolution of the monastries, and to really…moreIt will all be explained sufficiently for you both to form a picture of the immense changes during the dissolution of the monastries, and to really enjoy the book. Any good historical fiction author will add notes at the back, so you could read those first, if you want, but not necessary for understanding and enjoying. Hope you decide to risk it! (less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Bookworm Sean
I very rarely bother with crime novels. The genre feels overdone and, well, a little bit boring. To me it all looks like the same regurgitated story. I blame the terrible police dramas on television; they make me yawn when I see how stupid they are. I did a two year course in forensic science, and it never ceases to amaze me how the writers of these television shows think that wearing gloves will therefore mean that the crime scene is not contaminated by the otherwise exposed investigators. Neve ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 22, 2014 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cromwell
”’This is not Thomas More’s Utopia, a nation of innocent savages waiting only for God’s word to complete their happiness. This is a violent realm, stewed in the corruption of a decadent church.’

‘I know.’

‘The papists will use every means to present us from building the christian commonwealth, and so God’s blood I will use every means to overcome them.’

‘I am sorry if my judgement erred.’

‘Some say you are soft, Matthew, ‘ he said quietly. ‘Lacking in fire and godly zeal, even perhaps in loyalty.’

James Thane
Apr 17, 2015 James Thane rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
Even though I read a lot of history, I've never been a fan of historical fiction and so when one of the book clubs to which I belong picked this novel as a monthly read, I approached it with some trepidation. For the most part, though, I was pleasantly surprised and I enjoyed the book more than I expected to.

Dissolution is set in England and the action takes place over a couple of extremely cold and snowy weeks in 1537. This is shortly after King Henry VIII has broken with the Catholic church an
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
Jan 16, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  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
Set during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII, this novel brings this episode in history to life through the character Matthew Shardlake. He is developed throughout the story, creating a multi-faceted, compelling protagonist. Passers by only see Shardlake as a cripple, but the reader sees his pride, insecurities, longing for companionship, and devotion to a cause that he believes is sincere.

Through the example of the Monastery of St. Donatus at Scarnsea, we are shown first hand
Sam Piper
May 29, 2012 Sam Piper rated it really liked it
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
Jan 02, 2015 Phrynne rated it it was amazing
Now that is how historical fiction should be written, plenty of fact, some great fictional characters and a really good story. The fact that this is also a mystery and a page turner made the deal for me. This was a really good read and I will be seeking out the rest of the series very soon.
Nov 13, 2014 Jonfaith rated it liked it
How men fear the chaos of the world, I thought, and the yawning eternity hereafter. So we build patterns to explain its terrible mysteries and reassure ourselves we are safe in this world and beyond.

There was a germ of something remarkable in this genre novel. Double cursed with the blights of "historical" and "detective" baggage, Dissolution betrays yet another misfortune as it flies headlong into the pillars of its territory: The Name of the Rose meets Man For All Seasons as remixed by DJ Spoo
Apr 29, 2015 Kiwi rated it really liked it
A brilliant mystery set in Tudor England (1537-1538), the turbulent period after the execution of Anne Boleyn. Thomas Cromwell is pursuing the dissolution of monasteries; Shardlake, a hunchback, is a protestant commissioner sent by Cromwell to St. Donatus monastery at Scarnsea where the murder of his predecessor has taken place. There are number of monks among the suspects and Shardlake is convinced that the killer is still at the monastery.

This book was better that I expected. There are enough
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
Feb 12, 2012 Helen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
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.
Jul 01, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First published in 2003, this is the first novel in the Matthew Shardlake series, and introduces us to our unlikely hero; lovelorn, hunchbacked, a reformist lawyer who begins the book as utterly loyal to Cromwell’s ideals and ends it plagued with doubts about his role and mission.

Shardlake is sent by Cromwell to the Monastery of St Donatus the Ascendant at Scarnsea, Sussex. It is 1537 and the dissolution of the monasteries is underway. Cromwell had sent Commissioner Robin Singleton there with l
Lynne King
Feb 13, 2013 Lynne King rated it liked it
Shelves: to-read-again
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
Jun 23, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2013
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
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.
Morana Mazor
Mar 26, 2015 Morana Mazor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Moj prvi Sansom i ljubav na prvu knjigu...Ok, ja sam i inače veliki ljubitelj povijesnih romana, krimića, a i Tudora (zajedno sa Engleskom u to doba), a svega toga ima u Raskolu.. Nema baš Tudora direktno, ali su negdje u pozadini jer sva ta događanja opisana u romanu posljedica su odvajanja Engleske od katoličke crkve što je inicirao, naravno, Henrik VIII.
No da se vratim na roman.. Pratimo Mathewa Shardlake-a i njegovu istragu ubojstava u jednom od engleskih samostana...(neposredno pred nestana
I listened to the audiobook which was excellently narrated. However, as happens with me, I was sometimes not focusing when listening and missed some details. I am intrigued by this period of English history when Henry VIII went about dismantling the Catholic church. Dissolution, the title, refers to the closing of Catholic monasteries. While undoubtedly there was a great deal of corruption among the clergy, not all monks were guilty of wrong doing, and a lot of destruction occurred. I recall whe ...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
Diane Barnes
Feb 08, 2015 Diane Barnes rated it really liked it
This is a great murder mystery set in the 16th century, during the religious reformation of Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII. The setting is a monastery in Scarnsea, and Matthew Shardlake is a hunchbacked lawyer who serves as a commissioner of Cromwell to investigate the murder, and to hasten the dissolving of St. Donatus, as a precedent and warning to other religious orders as to what awaits them. One murder turns into 4, with twists and turns and red herrings all along the way. This book has it ...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
Susan Johnson
May 09, 2015 Susan Johnson rated it it was amazing
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
Really good Historical Fiction set in Tudor England, and a murder mystery. What is there not to love. Great Book. I cant wait to read the rest in the series
Jan 14, 2012 Paul rated it liked it
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
Mar 29, 2013 James rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-fiction
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
Gerald Sinstadt
Jan 01, 2010 Gerald Sinstadt rated it really liked it
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
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
Apr 03, 2015 Amanda rated it really liked it
This book had a rude interruption from another book that stole its spotlight, so while I might aim more for 3.5 stars it definitely gets rounded up to 4!
I must say this book is more mystery than historical fiction. I've been binging on historical fiction so didn't know quite what to make of this at first, but the characters and the setting grew on me.
Probably the best way to describe how I enjoyed this book is to say that I am seriously considering immediately reading the second in the series!
Mar 28, 2016 Suzannah rated it it was ok
It's hard to know what to say about this book, because I really liked the first half of it. But the second half ran rapidly downhill in my estimations.

This is a murder mystery set in a monastery under the threat of dissolution at the beginning of the English Reformation. Anne Boleyn is dead, but the Reformation continues, spearheaded by the king's vicar-general Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell's commissioner Matthew Shardlake--a wonderful, complex character--is a sober and devout Reformer with a vision
John Wiltshire
Feb 21, 2015 John Wiltshire rated it it was amazing
This is actually my second read of this novel. I've just finished the 6th in the series, and as I have some extra reading time decided to review the whole lot again. I'm very glad I did. I got a lot more out of this novel, as is often the case when you can see the first as part of a distinct whole.
Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer in Cromwell's employ working on the dissolution of the monasteries. He's fairly ardent in his reforming zeal, dislikes papist trappings, and is utterly loyal to Cromwell.
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2015 Reading Chal...: Dissolution by C.J. Sansom 1 13 Apr 08, 2015 06:50PM  
Tudor History Lovers: May 2014 - Dissolution, by C.J. Sansom 36 105 Jul 20, 2014 02:41PM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Overview 10 25 Jun 05, 2014 08:16PM  
Historical Fictio...: Group Series: Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake #1) 19 175 Dec 04, 2013 11:09AM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Thomas Cromwell 8 23 Nov 18, 2013 08:42AM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Overview 20 20 Nov 17, 2013 05:32PM  
Brilliant book with 2 flaws. 25 322 Nov 17, 2013 12:01PM  
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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
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Other Books in the Series

Matthew Shardlake (6 books)
  • Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake, #2)
  • Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake, #3)
  • Revelation (Matthew Shardlake, #4)
  • Heartstone (Matthew Shardlake, #5)
  • Lamentation (Matthew Shardlake, #6)

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“In worshipping their nationhood men worship themselves and scorn others, and that is no healthy thing.” 39 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.” 8 likes
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