Dorothy's Reviews > Sovereign

Sovereign by C.J. Sansom
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Sep 25, 09

bookshelves: historical-mysteries
Recommended to Dorothy by: My husband
Recommended for: Lovers of historical fiction and/or mysteries.
Read in September, 2009

I am really enjoying reading this series about the Tudor England of Henry VIII, and this third entry is definitely the best so far. Sansom has meticulously researched the period of which he writes and, while I certainly am not an expert on that period, everything about the books rings true to me.

It was a period of great cruelty, both to people and animals, and that is the hardest part of these books to read. I found myself skimming over a few sections, just because I have no stomach for torture and brutality. And yet those were important components of the whole social fabric of the period. The king was all powerful and could do whatever he wanted to whomever he wanted. And he and his agents did just that. It was a terrible thing to attract his notice.

Unfortunately for Matthew Shardlake, he does attract some notice when he stumbles upon a cache of papers in York which may in fact shed doubt upon the legitimacy of Henry VIII's kingship. Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak were in York where he had been assigned to help with petitions that were to be presented to the king on his great "Progress" to the north. He also was charged with the care of a conspirator who was destined to be sent to the Tower of London for torture. Shardlake was to keep him alive and reasonably well until he could be brought to the Tower. That proves to be an extremely difficult task.

York is a hotbed of insurrection and the center of a conspiracy against the king. Shardlake and Barak find themselves embroiled in it despite themselves, and then the attempts on Shardlake's life commence. Time and again he is attacked and it seems very uncertain whether he will ever make it back to London alive, much less solve the mystery of why someone wants him dead and who that someone is.

Sansom is a master at creating the atmosphere of the period. One feels that one is slogging along in the sucking mud, smelling the disgusting odors, hearing the sounds of workmen and animals and carts. It really is quite a marvelous achievement of writing. Sansom is said to be a favorite of the dean of British mystery writers P.D. James. I understand why.
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Reading Progress

09/22/2009 page 106
18.18%
09/22/2009 page 106
18.18% "The blatant cruelty to both humans and animals in this Tudor period is distressing and difficult to read about."
09/23/2009 page 207
35.51% "Yorkshire is in turmoil as Henry VIII's "Progress" continues in the area. Already there has been one murder and one attempted. What next?"
09/24/2009 page 301
51.63% "Someone is trying to kill Matthew Shardlake. Who and why? Barak is getting more involved with the lovely Tamasin. Where will that lead?"

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