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

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  16,114 ratings  ·  1,297 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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The Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Alienist by Caleb CarrThe Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónMistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Best Historical Mystery
10th out of 1,013 books — 2,696 voters
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Best Books About Tudor England
18th out of 396 books — 1,152 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
”’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.’

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
Bookworm Sean
This is a murder mystery, set in the political upheaval of Tudor England, during the dissolution of the churches. What more could a reader want? This book combines a classic whodunit scenario with the intrigue of the sixteenth century; it is brilliant.

At the heart of this book, is a very human character: Mathew Shardlake. Shardlake is a commissioner sent, by Thomas Cromwell, to investigate his predecessor’s murder at a monastery. Shardlake has a twisted back so is consequently spurned by the re
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
If the option were available to me I would give this book three and a half stars. That option is not available to me and so I will be giving a three star rating. Had this book not started out as slow going as it did, I might have given it four or five stars. This book took me nearly a month to read. It took me nearly a month to get past chapter eight. In that same time period I finished four other books. To summarize, I had a hard time getting into this book.

The book redeemed itself after (view
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
Paul Cheney
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
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
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 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
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
Zo Mo
A crippled lawyer with his young assistance were sent to a far monastery to investigate the brutal killing of Cromwell's commissioner assigned the mission of negotiating the surrender of the monastery to the Commonwealth. Things turn out to be more dark and complex than expected at the monastery where danger and death lurk at every corner.

This is a beautifully written detective story that paints a realistic image of Henry's England during the dissolution of the monasteries period.
While reading
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.
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
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
Gregory House
A very sound first novel

I must admit to coming to Sansom’s historical mystery stories only very recently, although I had been aware of the series for a couple of years. Since at the time I was writing my own collection set during the reign of Henry VIII and while my main character like Sansom’s Shardlake is a lawyer in London, Ned is but a lowly apprentice. So rather than be accused of plagiarism I stuck well clear until I’d finished my first quintal of stories. In fact I finally read my first S
Nancy Oakes
C.J. Sansom’s Dissolution is the first of a series of novels featuring Dr. Matthew Shardlake, who, in this episode is a lawyer whose boss is no one less than Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's chief minister. The action of Dissolution takes place just after The Pilgrimage of Grace rebellions have been put down and the main rebel leaders have been put to death. Part of the reason for this particular rebellion was the dissolution of several monasteries, a plan hit upon by Cromwell who supposedly saw th ...more
Cynthia Haggard
I have never read any of C. J. Sansom’s novels before, and might not of heard of him had a friend not told me of this book.

Set in the late fall of 1537, after the death of Queen Jane Seymour in October, Matthew Shardlake is given a commission by Thomas Cromwell, one of King Henry VIII’s henchman, to investigate a mysterious murder in a monastery on the Sussex coast. At that moment in history, Cromwell is in charge of “reforming” the monasteries, which basically means seizing their land, tearing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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Tudor History Lovers: May 2014 - Dissolution, by C.J. Sansom 36 95 Jul 20, 2014 02:41PM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Overview 10 22 Jun 05, 2014 08:16PM  
Historical Fictio...: Group Series: Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake #1) 19 165 Dec 04, 2013 11:09AM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Thomas Cromwell 8 17 Nov 18, 2013 08:42AM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Overview 20 17 Nov 17, 2013 05:32PM  
Brilliant book with 2 flaws. 25 302 Nov 17, 2013 12:01PM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Speculations on the Killer - Warning, Potential Spoilers! 10 18 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 about C.J. Sansom...
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“In worshipping their nationhood men worship themselves and scorn others, and that is no healthy thing.” 28 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.” 7 likes
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