Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake, #1)” as Want to Read:
Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


(Matthew Shardlake #1)

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  36,397 ratings  ·  2,636 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Dissolution, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
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…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)
Patsy Try the Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny. The first two take place at Christmastime in Quebec. Lots of snow for you, and the writing is…moreTry the Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny. The first two take place at Christmastime in Quebec. Lots of snow for you, and the writing is fabulous. I will definitely read the many more books of this series.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  36,397 ratings  ·  2,636 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake, #1)
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 the Bookdragon
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. ...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
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
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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 ...more
“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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Jul 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, religion
Great book!
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
"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."

First of all, this started promisingly. I was so much engrossed in the world of 16th century England. The thing was lively and really set the tone. But, the thing went downhill afterwards. When I picked up this book, I had hoped for a clever and a complex mystery. It did seem like one in the
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
Apr 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
'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
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
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
Jun 08, 2018 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
Richard Benitez
Jun 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
I purposely ordered book precisely because as a historical mystery it covered a period after Thomas More. I was swayed by the author’s credentials as writer of 80 novels and PhD in history. I know nothing of the early period of the Dissolution of the monasteries. What could go wrong?

Everything. The book reads like a religious tract. It goes out its way to denigrate everything “papist” with outrageous propaganda used by the Anglican Church and then successive Protestant. There is a lot of modern
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.
Jan 17, 2012 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

In reading this book, I have had a glimpse of eternity.

It took me 2 weeks to get three quarters of the way through; then, I must confess, I skimmed through to the end, just to confirm my intuition.

This is a good candidate for my newly-minted category, Click-Lit ... literature that is meant, from the start, for the small screen. Reading more like a script than a novel ... it will be a hit, with the right actors in place. I don’t foresee wasting any more time with the novels, but look
Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎
Jun 22, 2013 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
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dissolution is an exciting mystery set in 1537, at the time of the dissolution of monasteries commanded by Henry VIII. The enigma concerning the events at Scarnsea monastery is quite easy to be solved if you literally follow the clues. So better than the mystery I appreciated the staging - evoking a claustrophobic, suffocating atmosphere more typical of a dystopian novel rather than of historical fiction. Also I did like the take on Cromwell's policy and on Anne Boleyn's affair. I will ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Heresy (Giordano Bruno, #1)
  • Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1)
  • Prophecy (Giordano Bruno, #2)
  • Sacrilege (Giordano Bruno, #3)
  • A Plague on Both Your Houses (Matthew Bartholomew, #1)
  • Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)
  • Labyrinth (Languedoc, #1)
  • Treachery (Giordano Bruno, #4)
  • The Second Sleep
  • A Morbid Taste for Bones (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, #1)
  • Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death, #1)
  • The Fire Court (Marwood and Lovett, #2)
  • The Angel's Mark (Nicholas Shelby, #1)
  • An Instance of the Fingerpost
  • The Rose Demon
  • Wakenhyrst
  • The Ashes of London (Marwood and Lovett, #1)
See similar books…
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

Other books in the series

Matthew Shardlake (7 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)
“In worshipping their nationhood men worship themselves and scorn others, and that is no healthy thing.” 63 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.” 13 likes
More quotes…