The characters were cartoon caricatures, the writing was atrocious. One example: "...walking into the technology like sperm penetrating the gigantic eThe characters were cartoon caricatures, the writing was atrocious. One example: "...walking into the technology like sperm penetrating the gigantic egg of this vast, bulky machine." I won't spoil it for anyone who wants to read the book, but clunky, silly figures of speech like this abound. The plot is one of the over-the-top pseudo-scientific genus, which can be fun reading. This one could have been, had the author bothered to staff it with somewhat realistic actors.
I guess one could say that I really didn't care for this one....more
An excellent story of how politics and superstition in seventeenth-century Germany can turn a brutal murder into a horrific witch-hunt. When a young bAn excellent story of how politics and superstition in seventeenth-century Germany can turn a brutal murder into a horrific witch-hunt. When a young boy is found murdered with what appears to be a witch's mark on his shoulder, the outraged townspeople immediately mob the local midwife, who is saved - temporarily - by the intervention of the local executioner, Jakob Kuisl. The aldermen of the village, following the lead of the court clerk, determine that the best thing for the town is to force a confession of witchcraft from the unfortunate woman, then burn her. She is accordingly turned over to Kuisl for the administration of torture, and eventual execution.
But Kuisl is convinced the midwife is innocent, and with the assistance of the local physician, sets out to find the real killer(s). Written well, with a great deal of detail about place and purpose in German society of this period, THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER is an excellent historical mystery....more
In the spring of 1541, Henry VIII faced another conspiracy in the north of England, whose people and nobles were still largely opposed to the 'new relIn the spring of 1541, Henry VIII faced another conspiracy in the north of England, whose people and nobles were still largely opposed to the 'new religion' and still loyal to Rome. While the conspiracy was uncovered and many of its leaders imprisoned and executed, Henry and his advisers hurriedly organized a grand Progress,setting out to York in July to consolidate his authority. This forms the backdrop to the third of C. J. Sansom's Matthrew Shardlake mysteries, SOVEREIGN.
The hump-backed barrister of Lincoln's Inn, London, is called before Archbishop Cranmer and given a commission to assist at York in bringing petitions for justice from the people to the king. In addition, Cranmer gives him a charge to see to the safety of a noble prisoner, one of the spring conspirators, who is being brought back from York to London to endure the ministrations of the expert torturers in the Tower. The book opens as Shardlake and his assistant, Jack Barak, once a top operative for the now deposed and executed Lord Thomas Cromwell, ride into York a few days ahead of the King's Progress. What follows is a story that has all the period detail, suspense, danger, and political intrigue one could expect in the tumultuous times of Henry's England. A suspicious death, cryptic dying words, a cask of secret documents, repeated attempts on Shardlake's life - to say nothing of his current legal quarrel with a powerful foe, Sir Richard Rich, of the King's Privy Council - plunge the lawyer into events larger than he can realize, even to the tragedy of the ultimate fate of Queen Catherine Howard.
Reades of the first two books in this series, DISSOLUTION and DARK FIRE, will have come to expect a sense of authenticity in Sansom's portrayal of the highly-charged and dangerous atmosphere of early reformation England, and they won't be disappointed. Sansom has a gift for making the characters and time live before our eyes, all but placing us on the ground there. Those who haven't read Sansom before are in for a treat.
I enjoy the occasional thriller, and I have an abiding interest in the medieval order called The Poor Fellow-soldiers of Jesus Christ and Solomon's TeI enjoy the occasional thriller, and I have an abiding interest in the medieval order called The Poor Fellow-soldiers of Jesus Christ and Solomon's Temple, or Knights Templar, for short. Since Dan Brown's silly little fairy tale, there have been many offerings in the thriller genre dealing with these Crusader-monks and their putative hidden purpose and succession down into the present. I enjoy these tales, as far-fetched and obviously ridiculous as most of them are, because they make for a pleasant adventure. Suspension of disbelief for the sake of the tale is usually easy.
UNLESS ... the writer begins his tale with such egregious errors in historical fact that it blows one completely out of the story. Such a book is THE SWORD OF THE TEMPLARS. It has the same faults that most of these ancient-conspiracy-hidden-treasure-world-changing-revelation type books: utterly improbable thesis, insufficient motivation, plot driven as much by coincidence as by the protagonist(s)' actions, omnipotent and omnipresent villains. All this can be forgiven, if, as I said, one enjoys the occasional dip into this kind of story, as I do. What is unforgivable is the plain errors in Templar fact on which the author grounds his plot. Here are a few:
**THE BOOK: Hughes de Payens, the Templars' founder, was said to have gotten the backing of Godfrey of Bouillon, who had seized the title of King of Jerusalem, for the creation of the Order of the Temple. HISTORICAL FACT: When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, they elected Godfrey de Bouillon to rule the City, but he, a pious man, refused to accept the title of king in the city where Christ was crucified. He would only accept the title, "Defender of the Holy Sepulchre." Further, Godfrey lived only one year after the capture, dying in 1100. The Templars did not form until 1118 or 1119, under the sanction of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem.
**THE BOOK:Attributes the pamphlet, "De laude novae militiae" ("In Praise of the New Knighthood") to St. Alberic of Citeaux. HISTORICAL FACT: De laude nova militiae was written in the period 1128 - 1131 to establish that the new order was justified in waging war and shedding blood. It was written by St. Bernard of Clairevaux. Alberic had died in 1108.
**THE BOOK( p. 273): "Innocent was Pope during the Crusades. He was the one who eventually ordered the Templars to be arrested and killed." HISTORICAL FACT: Innocent was A pope during the Crusades, which lasted for more than two hundred years, but he was not the pope that presided over the destruction of the Templars. That was Pope Clement V, who, because of a promise he had made to King Philip IV (called "The Fair") of France prior to his elevation as pope, colluded with the French king in the sordid charges against and destruction of the Order.
There are others. Mistakes like this rob the readers of the simple, escapist pleasures to be had in books of this ilk....more
In the years 1537 to 1540, King Henry VIII of England, having already broken with Rome and proclaimed himself Head of the English Church, moved to cloIn the years 1537 to 1540, King Henry VIII of England, having already broken with Rome and proclaimed himself Head of the English Church, moved to close down the monasteries across the realm and add their lands and wealth to the royal coffers. It was a volatile and dangerous time, as Lord Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s feared vicar-general, sent commissioners to the smaller houses first, laying plans for the spoiling of the larger, richer monasteries. One such commissioner was sent to the troubled Benedictine house at Scarnsea with orders to persuade the abbot to ‘voluntarily’ surrender the monastery. For his trouble, he was found murdered in the community’s kitchen. Enter Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer and long associate of Lord Cromwell, who is sent with his assistant to find and arrest the killer. Not an easy task in itself, and made all the more difficult when they are isolated in a closed community of monks, all of whom hate and resent them for being reformers and Cromwell’s men. C. J. Sansom has perfectly conveyed the feeling of that time, a time when vast religious changes, ostensibly undertaken to restore purity but leavened with the greed and baseness of the powerful, are creating upheavals and displacements, a time where a careless word could land one at the headsman’s block. In the character of Shardlake, we have a complex man, who has faced challenge all his life and yet risen in his world without bringing its corruption within. He is thoughtful and determined, serious about the business in which he is engaged, yet vulnerable in his personal life. I look forward to reading more of Master Shardlake. The mystery is as twisted and convoluted as any fan could wish, and the writing is smooth and elegant. I highly recommend DISSOLUTION. ...more
REVELATION is the fourth of C. J. Sansom's masterful stories about Matthew Shardlake, a hunchbacked barrister of Lincoln's Inn, London, during the timREVELATION is the fourth of C. J. Sansom's masterful stories about Matthew Shardlake, a hunchbacked barrister of Lincoln's Inn, London, during the time of Henry VIII's reign, specifically the boisterous decade of Henry's break with the Church of Rome. It is during these years of religious upheaval, driven by political intrigue, that Shardlake, once a radical reformer in the service of Thomas Cromwell, finds himself engaged in investigations, commissioned first by Cromwell, then, after his execution, by Archbishop Cranmer, that seem always to have political overtones that endanger Shardlake himself. After three volumes of this in DISSOLUTION, DARK FIRE, and SOVEREIGN, Shardlake wants nothing more than to eschew the treacherous playground of politics and quietly resume his practice of law at Lincoln's Inn.
It is not to be, however; an old friend and fellow barrister, Roger Elliard is found horrifically murdered. When Shardlake makes the promise to his widow that he will not rest until the killer is found, he is assuming the duty of a friend, but when he is summoned to Archbishop Cranmer's palace, he soon realizes that Roger's murder was more than personal. Baffled by the King's Assistant Coroner's handling of the inquest, Shardlake is summoned to the Archbishop's palace, where he learns that his friend's murder may have a connection to others, and may, indeed, have some connection to Lady Catherine Parr, on whom England's amorous king has set his sights. That all this is being hidden by Cranmer and his ally, Edward Seymour, from the King once again places Matthew in a precarious position. In searching for the killer he will have to deal with evils he has not before seen, rumors of demonic possession, and ponder the cryptic plagues recounted in the apocalyptic Book of Revelation.
This book takes the modern serial-killer motif and adapts it to a time when madness was most often assumed to be possession by evil spirits, and does so with a remarkable lack of anachronism. Shardlake, Barak, the former monk and physician, Guy, all these are portrayed as men of the times, yet men willing to look beyond the contemporary belief to see truth. I was, as always, greatly impressed with Sansom's portrayal of Tudor England, and more than happy with the page-turning plot. Perhaps the best book of the series, so far, was SOVEREIGN, the book immediately preceding this; but REVELATION is by no means a disappointment. You will be well-rewarded in reading it. ...more