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(Matthew Shardlake #1)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  50,684 ratings  ·  3,189 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 (first published April 28th 2003)
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Pat C. Don't be intimidated. This is an excellent series. I learn most of my history from fiction so I always appreciate it when the author knows what they'r…moreDon't be intimidated. This is an excellent series. I learn most of my history from fiction so I always appreciate it when the author knows what they're talking about ;-). The stories are suspenseful, the murders grisly but not nauseating, the characters are fully fleshed out. My only complaint is that I wish the hero would get a girlfriend..(less)
John Oh a fellow fan of this niche! I'm too early in this book to say, but I've just read The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin, which is intelligent…moreOh a fellow fan of this niche! I'm too early in this book to say, but I've just read The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin, which is intelligent sci-fi set on a cold planet. The descriptions of an icy journey in the second half are absolutely gorgeous.(less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cromwell, tudor
”’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.’

Sean Barrs
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
I have a special affinity for historical mysteries and Dissolution is one of the good examples of this genre, at least for me.

The novel is the first installment in Matthew Shardlake series. The action is set in the time of (in)famous king Henry VIII and it has as main character a hunchback lawyer under the service of the equally famous and controversial figure, Thomas Cromwell. The titles hints on the subject of the novel, at least it does to readers familiar with British history. I knew vaguel
Peter (on semi-hiatus)
Dissolution is the first book from CJ Sansom in the Matthew Shardlake series, set during the reign of King Henry VIII and his Chief Minister, Thomas Cromwell. The Catholic Church in 1536 is being eradicated in Britain and the Dissolution of the monasteries has begun – by 1540 no monasteries would be left. The tensions in the country are high between those loyal to King Henry and those to the Catholic Church. Cromwell, himself is under scrutiny since his alliance with the now beheaded
This is a reread for me, the first in this historical series set in Tudor England that introduces and establishes the lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, afflicted by a deformity he was born with, leaving him in constant pain. Henry VIII has ordered the dissolution of the monasteries, intending to profit greatly from them. This has created a febrile atmosphere of religious unrest with Catholics being hunted down and plentiful executions. It is 1537, a tired and unhappy Shardlake has been summoned by the ...more
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Thomas by: Ingrid
I enjoyed reading this historical fiction book, recommended by GR friend Ingrid. The book is set in 1537 England. Henry VIII has left the Catholic church and the country is divided between those faithful to the new Church of England, with Henry VIII as its head, and the Catholic church. A royal commissioner is murdered in the monastery of Scarnsea on the southeast coast of England.
Thomas Cromwell, Henry's vicar general, calls a lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, to his office and tells him to go to the
James Thane
Apr 17, 2015 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
“He [Thomas Cromwell] was holding up a casket [small box] and studying the contents with a contemptuous frown, his wide, narrow-lipped mouth down-turned above his lantern chin. His jaw held thus made me think of a great trap that at any moment might open and swallow one whole with a casual gulp.”

And with a brutal gulp, Cromwell dissolved and swallowed the monasteries across England, beginning with smaller ones in 1536 and completing the dissolution of even the largest old ones by 1540, pension
Oct 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
In the debut novel of this Tudor-era series, C.J. Sansom lays the groundwork for what could be a great set of historical mysteries. After King Henry VIII enacted the dissolution of all monasteries across England, Thomas Cromwell sent commissioners out to ensure the rules were followed in short order. After one such man, Robin Singleton, was reported slain at the monastery in Scarnsea, Cromwell calls for an investigation. Turning to Matthew Shardlake, Cromwell entrusts him with returning after ha ...more
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
“A realistic view of fallen mankind.” (3.5 stars)

I don’t recall how this series got on my radar, but when a good friend starting reading, and loving, the series I had to bump it up on my “to read” pile.
I will admit that “Dissolution” took me a while to get into, despite the fact that its setting and subject matter are right up my alley. The reason is because initially it reminded me (in terms of plot points) of “The Name of the Rose”, a novel I detest! As a result I was leery of it for the first
Oct 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When I started reading the book it felt as if I walked into a film. The sounds, the smells were all very well described. Also a piece of English history that I didn't know much about and that I won't easily forget now. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to the next one in the series.

Again 5 stars.
I listened to it the second time and loved it just as much!
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First in a long running series, book 7 Tombland is out in October, Dissolution introduces lawyer and reformist, Dr. Matthew Shardlake. Currently in favour with Thomas Cromwell, Chief Minister to King Henry VIII and a vehement Reformer, Shardlake receives a commission to investigate a death in the monastery of Scarnsea. Even before the previous Commissioner, Robin Singleton, had his head removed by some unfriendly sort during his stay there, a monastery in this period was far from safe. It was a ...more
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: most-loved
Fantastic historical fiction that I adored reading. England in 1537 is certainly a fascinating setting and Matthew Shardlake is a character I highly enjoyed. I will be eagerly continuing with this series.
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
Em Lost In Books
A murder in a Monastery, and Matthew Shardlake, a London lawyer, was sent to investigate it. Matthew, who was working for Thomas Cromwell, wanted to impress his boss and was adamant to solve the case as soon as possible but alas mystery turned murkier and another murder was committed.

Since it was 1500, so no modern sciences to help us in way of finger prints, autopsy, lie detector test etc. Matthew had to talk to monks and see all of them as suspects, and that’s what I like about historical mys
William Gwynne
Just finished this introductory instalment to the historical fiction series, Matthew Shardlake. Set during the Tudor period, with Henry VIII reigning England, Dissolution has a combination of mystery, crime, investigation and political intrigue. It is very, very immersive and tense, with C. J. Sansom really crafting that sense of tension that was so present at this time, with a dramatically changing world and conflicting ideologies that was splitting the country of England into different groups ...more
Jun 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Having had my Tudor education expanded by Hilary Mantel’s books, I thought it might be an interesting diversion to read a mystery set in the same period of Henry VIII’s reign.
Right off, I was impressed with the atmosphere that Sansom creates. Whether it was the dangerous and crowded streets of London, the dank and ominous bureaucracy of Cromwell or the infested monastery where the primary action takes place, there was a palpable grittiness to the descriptions.

This serves well as counterpoint t
Jan 01, 2015 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.
Maria Hill AKA MH Books
This is a good old-fashioned who-dun-it, with bodies dropping every few chapters. Set in 1537 and told in the first person, Matthew Shardlake (a King’s Commissioner) must investigate the brutal killing of the previous King's Commissioner, Robin Singleton at Scarnsea monastery. What is a good and reasonable Reformer to do amongst a bunch of deluded crazy Papist monks? With the fate of the Monastery at risk, everyone has something to cover up and nobody is to be believed!

The historical background
Margaret M (Semi hiatus until October)
“And in my wilful blindness I had refused to see what was before my eyes. 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.”

Dissolution is a book that perfectly captures the atmosphere and instability of England during the time Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church, creating not just religious uncertainty but also Political instability, bu
May 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Read in 2018 but for some reason not edited by me from Currently Reading to Read.

Scarnsea is sanctuary but the monastery in the Sussex of Tudor England is seething with darkness and an oppressing atmosphere linked to death, taxes and treachery. In Henry VIII's reign old institutions and religious practices are threatened and as Matthew Shardlake enters Scarnsea it becomes clear he may be too.

Enjoyable murder-mystery with good characterisation, period detail and plot.
Jan 16, 2012 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
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
This is the first book* in the excellent Matthew Shardlake series by Sansom, which I am reading slightly out of order, having started with book 2 (which I really enjoyed). In this, we are first introduced to Shardlake, a confidant of Cromwell, who is given a commission by the latter to investigate a murder committed at a monastery in Scarnsea. It is 1537, Henry VIII has declared himself head of the church of England and the process of dissolving all the monasteries in the country, now the larger ...more
Jul 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, religion
Great book!
Michael Cattigan
Aug 24, 2011 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
'The Bible says God made man in his image but I think we make and remake him, in whatever image happens to suit our shifting needs.'

This is a complex time in Tudor history, brilliantly brought to life by CJ Sansom. The status quo in Britain at the time this story is told is an uneasy one. Thomas Cromwell has been commissioned by Henry VIII to dissolve the monasteries. Papists are hunted down. As one character says' there is nowhere safe in the world, no thing certain.'
Matthew Shardlake , a hunch
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
Diane Barnes
Jan 21, 2015 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
Terence M [Latin Deferred]
Audiobook - 13:40 Hours - Narrator: Christian Rodska
Four Solid Stars💥💥💥💥
Matthew Shardlake is an interesting character and it took me a little time to adjust to the writing and narration style of this historical fiction novel by C J Sansom. Once I did, I began to enjoy it to the extent that I would wake up during the night to go, umm, well you older readers will know, and upon returning to my warm bed (it's early winter Down Under), I would switch on the headphones and listen for an hour or two o
Judith E
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, series
The mystery (King Henry VIII’s commissioner has been murdered in an abbey) and historical fiction (the Reformation in 1500 Britain) are combined so perfectly that I devoured this book. Multiple characters are expertly drawn and are integral in imparting the history of the fall of Britain’s Catholic Church and the manipulations of Thomas Cromwell.

One of the best of this genre and highly entertaining.
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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

Other books in the series

Matthew Shardlake (8 books)
  • Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake, #2)
  • Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake, #3)
  • Revelation (Matthew Shardlake, #4)
  • Heartstone (Matthew Shardlake, #5)
  • Lamentation (Matthew Shardlake, #6)
  • Tombland (Matthew Shardlake, #7)
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