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Spring, 1543. King Henry VIII is wooing Lady Catherine Parr, whom he wants for his sixth wife. But this time the object of his affections is resisting. Archbishop Cranmer and the embattled Protestant faction at court are watching keenly, for Lady Catherine is known to have reformist sympathies. Meanwhile, a teenage boy, a religious maniac, has been placed in the Bedlam hospital for the insane. When an old friend of Matthew Shardlake is murdered, his investigations leads to connections to both, and to the prophecies of the book of Revelation. Shardlake follows a trail of horrific murders that are igniting frenzied talk of witchcraft and demonic possession. For what else would the Tudor mind make of a serial killer...?

550 pages, Hardcover

First published April 4, 2008

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About the author

C.J. Sansom

35 books3,500 followers
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 prominence with his series set in the reign of Henry VIII in the 16th century, whose main character is the hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake. Shardlake works on commission initially from Thomas Cromwell in Dissolution and Dark Fire and then Thomas Cranmer in Sovereign and Revelation.

The BBC have commissioned an adaptation of Dissolution with the actor Kenneth Branagh set to star as Shardlake. The rest of the Shardlake books are expected to follow. C. J. Sansom has been consulted on the series, which is in the final stages of negotiation.[citation needed].

He has also written Winter in Madrid, a thriller set in Spain in 1940 in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.

Dark Fire won the 2005 Ellis Peters Historical Dagger, awarded by the Crime Writers' Association (CWA). Sansom himself was "Very Highly Commended" in the 2007 CWA Dagger in the Library award, for the Shardlake series.

(from Wikipedia®)

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,229 reviews
Profile Image for Barbara.
268 reviews206 followers
November 6, 2021
I don't read this mystery series primarily for the suspense, the 'who done it' aspect. C.J. Sansom makes the history of Tudor England come alive. Henry VIII, Cromwell, the religious upheaval, and the vivid descriptions of London and its inhabitants are what I love about the series. The twists and turns along the path to the revealing of the murderer are also good and so rich with details of that period. Mathew Shardlake, the unconventional barrister who finds himself brilliantly fufilling the role of detective, adds to the overall appeal.

Cromwell is gone, King Henry is past his prime, but havoc, fear, and intrigue remain. As Henry pursues the reluctant Catherine Parr to become his 6th wife, religious turmoil continues. Dangerous
zealots abound within both religions, and tolerance is in short supply. When Shardlake's good friend is found murdered, his body dumped in a public fountain, this angry barrister promises to find the killer. As subsequent bizarre murders occur, Mathew realizes a prophecy of 7 vials of poison foretold in the Biblical book of Revelations is being reenacted, perhaps a serial killer before the term was known. Along with searching for answers, Shardlake is trying to help a young religious extremist who has been imprisioned in Bedlam Hospital and is in danger of being burned at the stake. Helping the poor and less fortunate is something this lawyer feels passionate about; at that time, London had a vast number of unfortunates.

Sansom's PHD in history is put to good use in this finely researched book. I love reading about this time period and feeling totally immersed in it, yet so glad to return to the current time. Anyone who enjoyed Hilary Mantel's trilogy will also like this enlightening series.
Profile Image for Justo Martiañez.
361 reviews134 followers
August 14, 2022
4.5/5 Estrellas

Este autor no es una revelacion, pero el libro es una maravilla.

Intriga histórica de 10, cómo nos tiene acostumbrados. Ambientación excepcional en los últimos años del reinado de Enrique VIII, 1543. El rey parece que está dando sus últimos coletazos, a nivel personal cortejando a la que será su sexta esposa, Catalina Parr y a nivel político religioso intentando limitar la proliferación del protestantismo radical y volviendo en cierta medida a los usos católicos tradicionales, una vez desligado de Roma y con las riquezas de la iglesia en la buchaca.
En este ambiente nuestro abogado Shardlake se enfrenta a una serie de brutales asesinatos con un fuerte tinte religioso en una sociedad fuertemente tensionada y dividida entre las distintas tendencias religiosas, cada vez más polarizadas.

Para mi gusto es el libro con la trama mejor conseguida, lo que unido a la gran ambientación apuntalan sobradamente las 5 Estrellas.

Mucha intriga religiosa y política y menos trama legal, lo que aligera la obra con respecto a otras anteriores.

Nos sumergimos en la antigua abadía de Westminster, entre la ruina y la reconversión. En una sociedad en la que la lucha entre los puritanos y los católicos alumbrarán un "producto" nuevo y a la
gran potencia que será Inglaterra en los siglos siguientes.
Profile Image for Matt.
3,673 reviews12.8k followers
April 22, 2019
C.J. Sansom continues with his great set of Tudor era historical mysteries, tapping into some of the controversies of the time to spin intricate tales sure to keep the reader enthralled. Matthew Shardlake has taken on quite a complicated case when asked to defend a young man who has been locked away in a mental facility. His crime, excessive praying and zealousness, leaves many wondering what is to be done. At a time when religious fervour is punishable by death when not in line with the Church of England, Shardlake must get to the bottom of this before things get out of hand. However, there are other issues, particularly when a friend is found murdered. As is often the case, Shardlake cannot steer clear of a mystery, though the King’s Coroner is quick to shut down the investigation. Shardlake is determined to get answers when asked by his friend’s widow. When Shardlake is approached by Archbishop Cranmer, he discovers that there may be more to the murder than meets the eye. It would seem that there are more murders with similar attributes, but those at the highest levels of Court do not want it known publicly. Shardlake examines what little evidence and documentation he can find, only to discover that the killer seems to be following a portion of the Book of Revelation, where death and destruction is rampant. Even with a list of the forms of murder, the interpretation is quite significant, not to mention the choice of victims. It would seem someone is trying to get rid of radical reformers, choosing brutal killings to make their point. When Shardlake and a few others are targeted by someone wanting the investigation stopped, it would seem he is on the right path. While all this is going on, Shardlake cannot forget his client, whose mental state remains as fragile as ever. Something must be done to quell the dramatic reaction of many in England, with ongoing questions at Court at what Henry VIII will do in his search for a new—sixth—wife. This may be one case that Matthew Shardlake wished he had left well alone. Brilliant in its delivery, C.J. Sansom taps into both the era and its intricate scandals to create a mystery like no other. Those who have loved the series to date will surely want to add this to their collection.

This is a great series for those who love their mysteries steeped in history and controversies of another era. C.J. Sansom does well to educate while entertaining the reader in a nuance-filled narrative. The story digs deeper than most of the Tudor history with which I am familiar, usually Henry VIII chasing a new wife or his offspring—Elizabeth—seeking to rule in ways never thought of before. It looks to the religious reformation within England and how powerful entities shaped the development of England and its Church at a time when things were still fairly new and shaky. Sansom continues to offer a little more of the backstory related to Matthew Shardlake. Gritty in his way of thinking, Shardlake faces much retaliation as he defends a religious zealot and comes to terms with his own beliefs in the face of a killer who wants to rid the country of non-traditional believers. The thread of religious dedication is an interesting sub-plot that Sansom has added to create more flavour to the Shardlake character. Shardlake remains a keen legal mind and wonderful investigator, working alongside his assistant, Barak. With a few characters from the history books, Sansom injects what many will already know about the heavy hitters of the era, but also finds time to shape new and unknown people to push the story forward. These characters serve various purposes and help to offer a more ‘down to earth’ approach to the story, with a topic that is anything but peaceful. Sansom has a wonderful way of weaving his characters into a glorious tapestry and will not disappoint. The novel is well-paced and offers more Tudor history as England comes into its own from a religious perspective. The novel is by no means out of the realm of any reader, though its topic and analysis can sometimes give it a ‘deeper’ and more ‘intense’ feel, alongside the long and intricate chapters that may be red flags for some readers. The patient reader may enjoy peeling back the layers of history required to digest the larger plot. I am eager that I gave the series another chance and want to get to the core of the Sansom reading experience.

Kudos, Mr. Sansom, for keeping me curious and wanting to know more. There may be many who write about Tudor times, but your mysteries offer a wonderfully unique angle.

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,398 reviews802 followers
July 12, 2020
“The water under the ice was red, bright red. My heart began thumping painfully. By their short black robes, the two young men standing staring into the fountain were students.
. . .
‘There’s – there’s a man in the fountain,’ he said in a trembling voice. The other student pointed at something sticking out of the water. ‘That – that’s a foot.’
. . .
But I sat transfixed by what was, for me, a double horror. The first was the great gaping wound in the man’s throat, red against the dead-white skin and stretching almost from ear to ear. The second was the face.”

The face is of an old friend of Matthew Shardlake, and he promises the widow (whom he knew and cared for since their youth) to find the killer. This is the 1500s, Reformation England, when London had a population of about 60,000.

Shardlake is a busy London lawyer who used to work for Thomas Cromwell, but with Cromwell gone (executed), he has been leading a more ordinary life and trying to stay out of King Henry VIII’s line of fire.

This is a grisly, gruesome tale, and if it were anybody but Matthew Shardlake, I probably wouldn’t follow where he goes. It is also a bit long, as this follows the trail of a serial killer who has a list of targets, making Shardlake’s work doubly difficult, as he and the others try to figure out who will be the next one chosen to represent the madman’s vision of revenge.

All must be kept hidden from the King and the public, as it seems possible that the King’s latest fancy may be a target – Catherine Parr, a recent widow.

“ The King did not look kindly on those who kept secrets from him. I realized I was involved again in something that could get me in bad odour with the King. Something dangerous. A second time, I might not survive. Yet I had sworn; there was nothing to do but go on.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, features as the authority to whom Shardlake reports and who supplies or commandeers the necessary manpower.

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (Wikipedia)

It all has to do with religion, of course, only this time it’s what level of reform is now acceptable. King Henry VIII proclaimed himself the head of his own new Church of England because the Pope wouldn’t allow him to divorce and remarry.

I’m sure many Anglicans and Episcopalians are not aware he was the founder of their church. Catholics are still forbidden, but now Cromwell’s spreading Bibles everywhere is frowned upon, and people are being burned and tortured if they’re in the wrong camp.

Meanwhile, Shardlake, the Archbishop and the others must ensure nothing interferes with Henry’s pursuit of Catherine Parr. There is some interesting romantic intrigue here.

Catherine Parr (Wikipedia)

Shardlake also has a young client who’s been admitted to the Bedlam – the insane asylum. He can’t stop praying, so much that he doesn’t eat or clean himself. He’s convinced he’s a sinner. Between the hunt for the serial killer and the mystery of the young madman, Shardlake is run ragged, injured, insulted and heart-broken. He has a hunched back and is often called Crookback by those making fun of him.

Shardlake’s old friend Guy, the Moorish doctor and former monk, is back in action as is young Jack Barack, now his assistant, married to Tamasin, the feisty and lovely young woman who was working for the Queen in Sovereign, the previous book. Barack is young and strong and brave . . . and frightened.

‘You know what scares me most of all?’ Barak asked suddenly.


‘The way every killing seems to be planned to show us the killer is cleverer than we are. He presents them to us like trophies.’

He does – ghastly, macabre, horrifying trophies. I’m not generally a fan of serial killer stories, but for some reason, I can read these – perhaps because they take place so long ago, I can escape.

“Seymour bent and picked up the head with no more concern than if it had been a football. I remembered the ghastly story of the cart full of Turkish heads in Hungary.”

The author brings the times to life so authentically that I shudder and wince along with Shardlake at the sights and smells and the pelting rain and the thought of wading through freezing marshes. I cringe equally as he visits his young client in the Bedlam.

But it’s worth it! This could be read as a stand-alone, I think, although as with most series, it’s nice to know the back stories. It's also an interesting way to learn a little history.

I reviewed the earlier books here:

Dark Fire

Profile Image for Ingrid.
1,183 reviews47 followers
October 26, 2021
A four and a half star, perhaps not quite as good as the one before, but overall these are wonderful books. They have given me an insight in the 16th century in a natural way, combined with a mystery that makes each book difficult to put down.

After reading it for the second time I haven't changed my mind :)
Profile Image for Kerri.
973 reviews344 followers
March 29, 2020
"We are in a mad and furious world, Matthew. Mundus furiosus. Each side railing against the other, preaching full of rage and hatred. The radicals foretelling the end of the world. To the conversion of some, and the confusion of many."
- 'Revelation' by C.J. Sansom

This is the fourth book of the Shardlake Series, which has become an unexpected favourite of mine. I say unexpected because I often don't enjoy crime fiction very much -- especially in the form of TV shows, like CSI, SVU etc. I don't necessarily think they are bad but I hate watching them. They make me feel queasy and a little paranoid, so I tend to avoid them. Some I have undoubtedly enjoyed and I find it more palatable in a book than on a screen, but it's not a genre I adore. However, I have discovered that historical fiction with crime elements is something I find fascinating. I think it is the lack of technology, the way an investigation can be prolonged in a more realistic way because it was hard to find and question people, with less evidence to go on. It feels more realistic somehow, even though I have no way to verify that!

By this point in the Shardlake Series we have three books under our belt, and a lot has happened! It's Spring, 1543. King Henry VIII has his eye on yet another wife(the sixth, and as we know, the last). London (and England as a whole) is in as much religious turmoil as ever. As C.J. Sansom says in his Historical Note at the end of the book,

"Many believed then, exactly as Christian fundamentalists do today, that they lived in the 'last days' before Armageddon and, again just as now, saw signs all around the world that they took as certain proof that the Apocalypse was imminent. Again like fundamentalists today, they looked on the prospect of the violent destruction of mankind without turning a hair. The remarkable similarity between the first Tudor Puritans and the fanatics among today's Christian fundamentalists extends to their selective reading of the Bible, their emphasis on the Book of Revelation, their certainty of their rightness, even to their phraseology."

It's an interesting and tumultuous time that I hadn't expected to feel so relevant. This time of religious divide, with people being burned as heretics, is the backdrop for our latest mystery. Matthew's old friend is murdered, his body displayed to make a statement. When it seems that people higher up are preventing an investigation, Shardlake is furious, demands to know why and is soon pulled into another complicated mystery.

It was gripping stuff. I really had no idea where it was going, and I have to admit I knew very little about the Book of Revelation. If you've read this book, I completely agree with Guy's take on the Book of Revelation, which is a view C.J. Sansom shares too. I won't say what it is, since it's important to the story, but I think they are both right.

Matthew Shardlake is a wonderful character and it's been wonderful to watch his evolution. There was more of Guy in this book, which I enjoyed as he is one of my favourite characters in this series. A new character, Ellen Fettiplace, was intriguing and I was pleased to see her mentioned in the description of the next book as I would love to know more about her.

This was another excellent addition to the series. I will be reading 'Heartstone' next as I've really gotten into the swing of this series and don't feel like a change of pace just yet.

I should note, this took me a while to read. That had nothing to with the book and everything to do with me letting myself get distracted by all the updates regarding Covid-19 and New Zealand's lock down. I think my concentration has improved since the lock down began, perhaps because it now feels like we are actually something proactive, which hopefully works.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,162 reviews2,010 followers
March 8, 2015
The fourth installment in this excellent series and it is easily worth five stars. One of the best things about these books is the delightful way the author discusses all the details of the lifestyle of Tudor England. I have always found this a fascinating period of history and C.J. Sansom knows how to make the most of it. In this book Matthew Shardlake our daring, hunchback, lawyer/detective is working for Archbishop Cranmer and HenryVIII is preparing to marry Catherine Parr. Life becomes very dangerous at times for our hero and there are numerous very gruesome murders! Extremely entertaining and for me unputdownable! Now for the next one:)
Profile Image for Javir11.
520 reviews155 followers
July 9, 2022

Tal vez sea porque me ha pillado una mala época, primero vacaciones y luego estuve enfermo, pero lo cierto es que no terminé de disfrutar esta novela como las anteriores. Quiero decir, gustarme me ha gustado, pero no ha llegado al punto de enganche de no retorno en el cual solo quieres leer y leer.

La trama nos sitúa de nuevo bajo el POV de Matthew Shardlake, abogado con escrúpulos del colegio de Lincoln en el convulso Londres del siglo XVI. Ha pasado algo más de un año desde su última aventuras, gracias a las cuales Matthew se ganó el favor de gente importante y un buen puesto de trabajo. Pero una vez más la tranquilidad será efímera en su modo de vida, un gran amigo suyo resulta asesinado de una forma ritual bastante desagradable, y por lo visto no es el único asesinato de ese estilo. La política/religión del momento volverán a estar en el punto de mira de la trama principal y debido al sentido de justicia de nuestro protagonista, se verá inmerso de nuevo en una aventura que podría costarle la vida tanto a él como a sus seres más cercanos.

Aunque la historia está bien, de hecho creo que incluso la trama principal está más trabajada que alguno de los libros previos, no me ha llegado a enganchar tanto y eso se ha notado a la hora de leerlo. Las secundarias que se entrelazan con la principal, han cumplido sin más y al final aunque el conjunto luce bien y es agradable, le falta un algo que no ha terminado de satisfacerme del todo. Como comentaba seguramente ha sido el momento de leerlo, pero en cualquier caso hay que evaluar a razón de lo leído y disfrutado, y mi disfrute ha sido notable, pero muy lejos del excelente.

El quinto si no me equivoco es el más flojo de la saga, así que iré con expectativas bajas, a ver si me sorprende para bien.
Profile Image for Andy.
415 reviews67 followers
December 16, 2015
Straight into the saddle with a quick update of where we are in terms of Henry VIII’s life & the key players that surround him which acquaints us swiftly with Tudor life. And we’re off!

Shardlake takes on a case with political & religious connotations afoot which align to professional suicide so all warn him...... then the murders start! Are they linked.....? And then the guessing game begins

Its a grand series & I ALWAYS kick myself as to why I take so long before reading another in the series.... maybe I jus like to leave them a period to savour them moreso.

At jus over 600 pages I thought this would last me til xmas...... WRONG! A real pg turner & I urge all who haven’t tried the Shardlake series yet, to delve in, if Crime mystery is your thing!

And Yeah Yeah I dinny know who it was either, totally clueless was me (as usual) but there’s so many potentially that it could be which is the real intrigue of it all.
Profile Image for Karen Witzler.
471 reviews154 followers
October 1, 2019
The most enjoyable part of the book was meeting my ancestors in the streets of Shardlake's Tudor London. Hot-gospeller, spellbound-by-Revelation, worshippers of the newly translated literal-word-of-the -Lord folk who replaced Popish fancies with maniacal endtimes wishes that have been passed down in my family from that day to this. Thank you, C.J. Sansom for letting me peer into those origins. Once again, the cultural, intellectual,spiritual, and financial/political chaos seems to echo our own time. And as with all fiction set in those times, the foreknowledge that this one will be beheaded, and that one will be burned only adds to the interest. The Seymour Brothers, Catherine Parr, and Archbishop Cranmer join the cast of characters. I will start the next in the series tomorrow.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,604 reviews599 followers
October 4, 2014
This is the fourth novel in the series featuring lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, and his assistant Jack Barak. This is one of the darkest, most unsettling books in the series, involving Shardlake and Barak in the hunt for a Tudor serial killer, who has an obsession with the book of Revelations and a client who is declared insane and sent to the Bedlam.

King Henry is planning to take another wife and is busy trying to convince Catherine Parr to marry him. Speaking of matrimony, Barak’s marriage to Tamasin is suffering difficulties and Matthew’s old friend, Roger Elliard is murdered. Matthew had hoped to marry Roger’s wife, Dorothy, and he feels responsible to help her by tracking down Roger’s killer. However, the crime is not a simple one and brings him back into contact with those at the centre of power and the Court – Thomas Cranmer, Thomas Seymour and Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford.

London is portrayed as a city rife with religious tension. Reformers are under scrutiny, Cranmer fears investigation and there is a climate of fear on the streets. Along with the strain between Barak and Tamasin, Matthew’s old friend, Guy, has a new apprentice called Piers, who Matthew feels uneasy about. As Shardlake attempts to protect his client and track down a killer, you can almost feel the tension, both on the streets and between the characters. This is an excellent addition to the series – intelligent, thoughtful and well written – a superior historical mystery.
Profile Image for Clemens Schoonderwoert.
1,076 reviews76 followers
January 1, 2022
Read this book in 2011, and its the 4th volume of the wonderful "Matthew Shardlake" series.

This tale is set in the year AD 1543, and King Henry VIII has set his sights on Catherine Parr, to become as his new, and sixth wife.

At court several people of which Archbishop Cranmer and a dangerous Protestant faction are the most important, and these will keep an keen eye on Catherine Parr and her reformist sympathies.

Matthew Shardlake is working on a case of a teenage boy, whether he should be released or not.

But when his old friend is found brutally murdered, he promises his widow to find this killer and bring him to justice, and during his investigations his search for the truth will lead him to both Cranmer and Catherine Parr, and the dark prophecies of the Book of Revelation.

When all of a sudden more murders start to occur and Bishop Bonner of London prepares a purge of Protestants, an action that can bring the life of Catherine Parr in mortal danger, Shardlake, his assistant, Jack Barak, and his friend, Guy Malton, with frenzied talk of witchcraft and demonic possession, the Tudor court will shake to its core and in this world of treason and death, Shardlake must find the killer and real soon.

What is follow is an intriguing mystery, in which Shardlake will need to go to any length to find this killer, and after some twists and turns, followed by an excellent executed plot, Shardlake will eventually reveal this killer for the Book of Revelation in a most sublime fashion.

Highly recommended, for this is a splendid addition to this fantastic series, and that's why I like to call this captivating episode: "A Brilliant Revelation"!
Profile Image for Samantha.
Author 16 books346 followers
July 8, 2022
With this installment in the Matthew Shardlake series, I think I can safely say that CJ Sansom has taken his place as my second favorite modern author (Sharon Kay Penman being my favorite). I have given this book some time to swirl around in my mind since I finished it, and I'm still not sure that I can do it justice.

Nobody brings Tudor England to life the way Sansom does. The sights, smells, sounds....it is easy for the reader to imagine that they are walking along next to dear Matthew as he walks the crowded London streets. This is what I first fell in love with in Sansom's writing back in Dissolution.

The next thing that drew me in was Shardlake himself. I love the way Sansom presents him as a character that the reader can relate to and admire despite his flaws. We share his doubt, fears, and longings as if Matthew is our very best friend. I can feel my heart twist in my chest when he is hurting.

Then there is the mystery, which I know is supposed to be the main point. Though it is expertly done, this is only part of the attraction of the novel for me. The cases that Matthew is wrapped up in for this installment once again bring him closer to court than he is comfortable with, and the reader is given a fun glimpse of the Seymour brothers as Henry VIII nears his end and targets his final wife, Catherine Parr.

This story is much darker than the previous volumes, with a serial killer stalking victims and torturing them according to his interpretation of verses in the book of Revelation. Sansom takes this opportunity to evaluate the religious war taking place in England at the time along with Matthew's personal doubts.

If I had one minor complaint about this book it was that the author attributes many protestant beliefs to Martin Luther than he did not hold. Maybe this was believed at the time, and that is why he chose to write it that way or maybe it was a simple mistake. Specifically, Martin Luther did not believe that certain people were predestined to hell. This is a belief more accurately attributed to Calvinists. On the other hand, Luther did believe in the true body and blood of Jesus being present in the Eucharist, though not all protestants did.

Revelation was captivating in its plot, historical detail, and character development. I am only afraid that soon I will run out of Shardlake novels to read.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
2,129 reviews607 followers
May 10, 2015

I really enjoy this series of mystery novels set in the reign of Henry VIII. The author has a gift for weaving the historical backstory into the mystery and generating a very evocative atmosphere of London in the 16th century. Through the characters and other story lines running through the novel, many pictures of daily life emerge including the practice of Medicine at the time, the workings of the sewerage system, construction of false teeth and of course the upheaval in religion and the chucrches during the reformation.

In this fourth novel of the series, Henry is courting his sixth wife, Catherine Parr. The city is tense with religious unrest following the dissolution of the monasteries and those caught preaching on the streets are arrested and put to death. When several bizarre murders are uncovered, one victim being a close friend of lawyer Matthew Shardlake, there are fears that of a plot against the King and Archbishop Cramer hires Matthew and his assistant Jack Barak to hunt down the killer. Matthew has also been hired to look into the case of a young man, seized with religious fervour who has been locked in Bedlam for his own safety. This is a long novel, but I enjoyed every page of it as Matthew uses his detective skills to tease out the identity of the killer.
Profile Image for Sonia Gomes.
308 reviews95 followers
September 27, 2020
What can you say about a detective novel set in the reign of Henry VIII?

Love the Tudors and a detective novel set in those times, mind boggling.

Loved the book...just could not put it down...was sad when it was over.

Besides I am a great fan of Mathew Shardlake...What more can I say?
Profile Image for Terri.
529 reviews252 followers
February 12, 2013
I may consistently give these C.J. Sansom books 4 out of 5 stars (with the exception of the third in the series, Sovereign, which I gave 5 stars to), but I do thoroughly enjoy them.
For me they are the perfect holiday read, or windy wet weather read. Sit in a corner with a cup of tea, curl up under a thick quilt in bed, lock yourself away or escape every evening to its pages.

C.J Sansom recreates the Tudor world with an ease that all historical fiction authors should aspire to. The stories are not always fast paced or addictive, but for me it is not really the power of the story or plot that keeps me coming back again and again, it is the power of the author to open a window in time through which I feel and see and smell Tudor England.
It happens everytime I pick up one of these books. They are most reliable in that respect.

In this fourth instalment of the Matthew Shardlake series, our window is into 1543 London. Henry VIII is courting Catherine Parr, the Parliament has brought in controversial anti-reformist legislation - the legislation that includes prohibiting women and the working classes from reading the bible – and religious radicals and conservatives are pulling apart the cultural and social fabric of the city.

Within this maelstrom, Matthew and Barak are confronted with an all new horror. Gruesome deaths the like of which they have never seen. The like of which the city has never seen. Orchestrated with the methodical cunning and pathological cruelty that we relate now to being the potential handiwork
of serial killers. But in the Sixteenth Century, a time of intense religious fervour, some can only fathom it as demonic possession.
Running parallel to these killings is the story of a young man, Adam Kite. His peculiar and desperate behaviour having landed him in The Bedlam, Shardlake is appointed to the boys case and he must solve the riddle of this young man's mind before the conservative powers would have him burned or some such other grisly fate.

If there is anything I can point to as a negative with this book - a negative for me at least - it would be the amount of religious discussion inserted into the story. For other readers it would be appropriate and interesting, and while I do agree with its appropriateness (as the country was alive with religious debate) I would not agree with it being interesting. I would have shaved it back a degree as it got in the way of the semi thrilling hunt for a killer or killers.
Profile Image for Phee.
558 reviews58 followers
November 12, 2017
Another great instalment in one of my favourite series. It’s so sad I hear literally no one talk about these. Anyone who’s a fan of Tudor England and mysteries will adore them. There so well written and keep you interested throughout, despite the length of the novels.
I must say, I prefer the ones that are set in London rather than else where. This one and book two are both set in London and are my favourites of the four I have read so far.

This one held another great mystery, a serial killer whose victims are killed in a fashion that mimics some of the book of Revelation, hence the books title.
Although I found the killer to be obvious in this one you do get plenty of suspicious characters and red herrings. Sansom makes you doubt yourself and I love the big reveals at the end of each book. Everything is tied up and you get the answers to all the questions raised. I like this aspect because it means you can leave a gap between reading the next one. Each book is its own self contained story, the character development obviously is an overarching plot so I don’t recommend reading them out of order. But sometimes years pass between each book. Meaning the reader can read the series at leisure, very handy considering how large these books are getting.

As I did with the previous couple of books, I both listened to the audiobook and read some of the paperback. The audiobook is fantastic and I love the narrator. He does the audio for all of the novels I believe. One thing to add though is that I often found myself falling asleep whilst listening to the audio. Which is great sometimes because jet lag has really screwed me over this week and left me exhausted and yet unable to sleep at suitable hours.

I may leave it a short while until I start the fifth book as I have a few big books lined up next. But only two more books and I’m up to date with the Shardlake series. And I can’t wait to see where they lead.
Profile Image for C.W..
Author 16 books2,285 followers
November 21, 2008
In his fourth outing, hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake is up against a gruesome serial killer intent on bringing forth the prophecies of Revelation through a series of Biblical-inspired killings. Called in to attend to the bizarre case of a young boy imprisoned for madness and suspected of suffering from demonic possession, when Shardlake discovers the slain body of his best friend in a frozen fountain, he is once again caught between the machinations of the Tudor court, where Henry VIII has set his sights on a reluctant Catherine Parr, his own waning spirituality, and the brutality of existence in Tudor London. As always, Sansom paints a realistic portrait of an era where power and wealth are the ultimate prize and life is easily disposed of; his attention to detail conjures a time both vastly different and eerily reminiscent of our own, a world where religious fundamentalism threatens to uproot the foundations of reason and men struggle to come to terms with the meaning of justice and faith. Excellent!
Profile Image for Terence M - [back to abnormal].
491 reviews167 followers
May 13, 2019
Can't get into this - placing it on the dnf - will try again shelves.
Update (13 May 19): I now intend to read the series (or at least #1 to #5 which I own), and #1 Dissolution is in my 'Reading Now' list, ready to go!
Profile Image for LJ.
3,156 reviews313 followers
August 8, 2008
REVELATION (Hist. Mys-Matthew Shardlake-England-1500s-Middle-Ages) – Ex
Sansom, C.J. – 4th in series
Macmillan, 2008, UK Hardcover – ISBN: 9781405092722

First Sentence: The high chandeliers in the Great Hall of Lincoln’s Inn were ablaze with candles, for it was late afternoon when the play began.

Henry VIII has asked to marry Catherine Parr and England is in a time of religious turmoil.

The Dissolution of the monasteries is done but now Henry, and the reformists, are moving back toward Catholic ways, under the King rather than the Pope, at the same time as the rise in Protestantism. An English version of the Bible has been published, but only Churches and the upper class are allowed to read it.

One of lawyer Matthew Shardlake’s closest friends has been murdered and his body publicly displayed. Brought before Archbishop Cramer, Matthew learns this is not the first such killing. A serial killer is using versus in the Book of Revelations to carry out his killings.

Sansom brings Tutor England to life and makes us see what a difficult time it was in which to live. He doesn’t present the romanticized image, but gives us a look at the dangers of the time from social and religious reforms to poverty to mental illness being labeled possession, without ever slowing down the story or being preachy.

The dialogue is, naturally enough, not of the time, but flavored with a sense of the time. I always learn a lot reading Sansom.

Shardlake is a wonderful character who has grown and improved as a character through the series. He is supported by Barak, for whom Matthew tries to do a bit of marriage counseling, and Guy, a Moor, once a monk, now a doctor.

Sansom is an evocative writer and masterful at combining historical detail with a multilayered story, and suspenseful mystery. I am continually impressed by the quality of Sansom’s writing.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
933 reviews63 followers
February 24, 2020
Revelation takes place in 1543, shortly after Thomas Cromwell was beheaded, and shortly before Catherine Parr married Henry VIII. This was a dangerous time: political enemies were denounced, sometimes at the cost of their heads. Good and evil shifted almost daily, ‘Each knowing, of course, that their own side is entirely in the right’ (p. 97). Protestants and Papists, hot-gospellers and Laodicean were each at risk when they fell on the wrong side of this changing landscape. A fiery death may have been pleasing to some – certainly spectators – but sometimes also those joining their God.

In his notes at Revelation's end, Sansom made parallels between the religion during this period and some contemporary Christian fundamentalists, who each selectively read the Bible, believe that they're living in the last days before Armageddon, look forward to the violence predicted in the Book of Revelation, and are certain of their rightness. As Coroner Harsnet observed, I never act without praying, and God answers, and then I know that I have taken the right path’ (p. 338).

During this period, medicine still believed in the four humours and used bleeding and purging to create balance in the body. The mentally ill were chained and, frequently, mistreated. The body reflected the soul, so that Shardlake is told. 'I marked your bent back, which is a sign of a twisted soul' (p. 522). Women were expected to be subservient or were perceived as gossips and nags; yet, Sansom includes some interesting counterexamples.

Against this backdrop, solving a series of difficult deaths committed by a possibly-insane serial killer is both difficult for the detectives and interesting for the reader: observational skills and logic are given priority. On the other hand, the murderer was not an obvious choice – although I'd drawn it before the unveiling – and does not seem a very credible murderer for the nature of the crimes committed.

Although there is plenty of action as the group attempts to curtail additional murders – and ugly murders – the pacing of Revelation felt good: action was balanced by thoughtful observations of Vesalius's drawings of his dissections of the human body and contemplations of medicine, religious conflict, political intrigue, and the treatment of mentally ill. Revelation satisfied my mind, not only my need for adrenaline. (I'm not an adrenaline junky.)

Revelation is the fourth in the Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mysteries. As it often goes for me, I didn't read the first three in the series first. It might have helped, but I didn't suffer for not having done it. I will return to them later.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
350 reviews9 followers
March 29, 2011
In this installment, it is the year 1543 and Matthew Shardlake, the hunchback lawyer, has been promoted to Serjeant in the Court of Requests by Archbishop Cranmer. Cranmer owes Shardlake big-time after the events of the last book and Matthew is quite happy with his life and his work. Unfortunately, Matthew's peaceful existance is interrupted when his dear friend, Roger Elliard, is murdered in a most horrific and public way. Matthew vows to bring the killer to justice but there is much more to the story than Matthew realizes. There is a serial killer on the loose in London and once Matthew begins his investigation, the killer's attention is turned to him. With the help of his assistant Jack Barak and his good friend Dr. Guy Malton, Matthew takes on a case more dangerous than any he has taken on before.

I love this series! The historical aspects of the time are very well done, and I got a great sense of the religious tensions and fear that must have pervaded London and King Henry VIII got nuttier and nuttier. The approach to mental health and descriptions of "the Bedlam" and how it was run were also very interesting. The mystery was very well-done and the chase for the killer was exciting. I was still guessing who the killer really was all the way through!
Profile Image for Dajana.
110 reviews5 followers
July 24, 2022
Ovo je bilo jako dobro!

Četvrti roman iz serijala o odvjetniku Matthewu Shardlaku samo je potvrdio da C. J. Sansom pristupa temi s pažnjom i ozbiljnošću, istražujući povijesne izvore. Pokušava u roman unijeti što više činjenica, a onda oko njih plete radnju i uključuje fiktivne likove koje suočava s povijesnim.

Ono što obožavam u Sansomovim romanima jest to što veliku pažnju daje osjetilima pa točno mogu zamisliti svu prljavštinu, neugodne mirise, bolove...

Također likove koji se pojavljuju u svim romanima nije opisao kao savršene i svemoguće, što ih svakako čini opipljivijima i "stvarnijima", ako je to uopće moguće. Osim glavnog lika odvjetnika, tu su još njegov pomoćnik Barak i prijatelj liječnik Guy, meni možda i najdraži sporedni likovi iz triler serijala.

U "Otkrivenju", između ostaloga, istražujemo vjerski fanatizam i ludilo te shvaćanje istoga u 16. stoljeću. Tu je serijski ubojica koji se opasno približava kraljevskom krugu, a cijeli slučaj potrebno je riješiti tako da kralj uopće ne sazna za to.

Profile Image for Pam Baddeley.
Author 2 books45 followers
January 18, 2021
In volume 4 of the series, Shardlake has found some contentment in his job as Sergeant, senior lawyer, at the court dealing with law cases affecting ordinary people. But the violent death of someone close to him draws him into another murder investigation, and also drags him into the religious and political conflicts of the declining years of Henry VIII's reign.

Alongside this, Shardlake is also representing the interests of Adam, a young man who is seriously disturbed and is confined in the famous mental hospital, Bedlam. Despite its inadequacy, Adam is safer being held there, given the climate in London where Bishop Bonner has already had two young men burned at the stake for heresy. Both Shardlake and Adam's parents are concerned that Adam's ravings, influenced as they are by his background in the reformist religion (which we would now call the Puritan wing of the Protestant community), will put him in danger, especially since Bonner has launched another crackdown.

Interwoven with this are various personal issues, with the possibility of a renewed relationship with an old flame, and stresses on Shardlake's close friendship with Guy, the moorish doctor. His sidekick Barak is having marital difficulties, adding to the general air of anxiety. And to complicate matters, the murder investigation must be kept secret, given the sensitive connection with Catherine Part, whom the king is now courting.

This was a fascinating story, enhanced by the personal issues affecting Shardlake. I thoroughly enjoyed it and take pleasure in awarding a well deserved 5 stars.
Profile Image for Gerald Sinstadt.
417 reviews41 followers
January 1, 2010
As a confirmed Sansom addict, I now believe that the four Shardlake novels show an admirable progression. Revelation crowns a notable achievement.

In Dissolution, the claustrophobic limitations of the community at Scarnsea and the largely indistinguishable monks were the down side. The pluses were originality of scene and the personality of the hunchback lawyer himself.

Evidence of the author's feel for place and period led one hopefully to Dark Fire, and in the matter of authentic atmosphere one was not disappointed. The dénouement - a long passage of "Before I kill you let me explain everything" - creaked a bit and earned minus marks; the great gain was the introduction of Jack Barak, a fully-fashioned character worthy to ride beside Shardlake.

Sovereign felt like Sansom maturing into complete control of his territory: historical background matched by character development. Moreover, now Barak acquired a partner in the feisty Tamasin.

So to Revelation. I share the reservations expressed elsewhere about the validity of a serial killer theme in Tudor clothes, and the odd jarring anachronism ("back to square one" for example). But the characters continue to develop: Shardlake in his agnosticism; the introspection of the black monk, Guy; and the stormy relationship of Barak and Tamasin. Overall, the author has taken on a challenging set of themes - the murders take place against, and are interwoven with, a background of religious persecution and failure to understand the nature of madness. His success, for this reader at least, is impressively convincing.

One big question remains: are the Shardlake chronicles at an end? Revelation closes with one or two issues left dangling. Devotees will live in hope.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,116 reviews
October 4, 2014
It is the end of winter in 1543 and Henry is wooing Catherine Parr with the intention of making her his sixth wife. This is not popular with Archbishop Cramer as Parr is known to have sympathies to the reformist agenda.
Shardlake has agrees to take on the case of a lad who has been diagnosed as mad and who is in the asylum called Bedlam. People are starting to think that his mania will get him sentenced as a heretic.

On returning home later one evening he discovers a body in the fountain, this is his good friend Roger, and his throat has been cut. Shardlake pledges to Dorothy that he will find Roger's killer and bring him to justice. His initial investigation and the coroners inquiry raise suspicions within him that there is a lot more to the murder that he is being told, and he challenges the coroner after the hearing. He is summoned to Archbishop Cramer's office and is told that this is not the first murder that they have suppressed the details of as there is a suspicion that this will threaten Catherine Parr. Heving successfully avoided the political scheming recently, he is now right back in the middle of it.

So Shardlake begins his investigation, and as he does, he realises that these grisly murders are linked, and have a pattern that brings a chill to his heart. The race is on to find this murderer, before he kills again, but he is always one step ahead and is following Shardlake and his assistant Barak.

Sansom has done it again with this book. Not only do you have dramatic tension as they struggle to find a very clever killer, who knows so much about them, but there are political intrigues, personal conflicts and layers of stories in here. Nicely paced too, with an excellent climax as the events unfold at the end.
Profile Image for Andrea.
881 reviews132 followers
March 9, 2017
My least favorite of the series so far. Too much romance (and a lame drama at that... plus, the conflict never got resolved), too many subplots (which -of course- very conveniently fitted into the overall plot...), too much discussion of religion, and just too long for my taste. The setting was interesting as always, although I hoped Catherine Parr would play a larger role. The "serial killer in Tudor England" approach was interesting, but ultimately didn't interest me.
Profile Image for Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore.
745 reviews164 followers
July 26, 2019
Book 4 in the Matthew Shardlake series sees us back in Tudor England at when Henry VIII is wooing Catherine Parr. Shardlake is on the case of a teenage boy who has suddenly taken to praying obsessively (so much so that he won’t eat, sleep, or work) and has been placed in Bedlam, the only place he can be safe at a time when he can be burnt as a heretic by Bishop Bonner, who seems to be going after anyone he can. But Shardlake has to ensure that the boy Adam is looked after at Bedlam, else he may well die. Meanwhile Shardlake’s friend and fellow barrister Roger Elliard is found murdered, and that too in a very gruesome manner. The authorities seem to be playing the death down but soon he finds that this is because Roger’s death was not the first of its kind, and there is a serial killer on the loose taking ‘inspiration’ from the book of Revelation. Not only that, the investigations have a political angle to them because of one of the victims, and are being directed by no less than Archbishop Cranmer who once against requests him to be involved. Working with the King’s coroner, Harsnet, he has to navigate the world of politics and keep himself safe from the serial killer who seems to be targeting him as well as his assistant Barak and Barak’s wide Tamasin. Alongside Barak and Tamasin are having problems in their marriage after having lost their child, while Shardlake’s friend, the physician Guy has hired an apprentice who seems perfect on the surface but of course all is not as it seems.

While many of Shardlake’s cases (the first one comes to mind especially) are dark, this one certainly falls into that category, the gruesomeness of the deaths and the idea of a killer who is not only responsible for such acts but with a state of mind that would lead him to do so sends chills down one’s spine. As always, this was a very gripping read despite being well over 500 pages in the edition I have (slimmer than some of the others, I guess)—so much so that I was reading well past bedtime and then again as soon as I woke up. Also as always I enjoyed the historical setting, with the atmosphere of a London seeped in tension and constant danger coming through very well (one wouldn’t want to be there but one can experience something of what it was like reading this)—a place where every word, every action could get one killed. Once again a great read despite its rather dark and unsettling themes.
Profile Image for Alisa.
428 reviews20 followers
May 12, 2017
If you like historical fiction and/or mystery, I'd advise you to check out C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake series. Matthew Shardlake is a hunchback lawyer living in London during the reign of Henry VIII. His work brings him in contact with some history's lesser-known people: Thomas Cromwell, Richard Rich, Thomas Cranmer. In each book, Shardlake solves at least two mysteries, one related to his law practice and one related to the politics of Tudor England. Sansom is an excellent writer, and his book are immensely satisfying.

Revelation is no exception. In this novel, Shardlake takes on the mysteries and politics of religion. Henry VIII is slowly drifting back to the old ways, so the great reformers of the age, among them Cranmer, are scheming to hold on to the freedom to make others worship the way they want them to and to discredit any heretics who would allow Henry the opportunity to return the English church to its Popish ways. The political mystery involves a serial killer who is staging each murder to look like a scene from the book of Revelations--gruesome indeed. Cranmer wants the murderer found quickly and without alerting the king, as he fears the killings are a way to influence Henry to return to the old ways. Shardlake, who is forever eschewing politics, agrees to help because one of his friends was a victim. The chase is on, and Shardlake, with a familiar cast of characters, solves the mystery with hard work and intellect. There's a bit of swashbuckling as the perpetrator is brought to justice, but as in most of the Shardlake books, it's brains rather than brawn that saves the day.

The second mystery involves Shardlake's young client Adam, a boy who used to be cheerful, strong, and healthy, who has turned to obsessive prayer and tuned out the rest of the world. He's been committed to Bedlam, in part because what he's doing is crazy, but also to protect him from religious persecution. Public displays of heretical thought lead to burning at the stake. Sansom provides a look at the infamous Bethlehem Hospital, giving his readers another taste of life in Tudor England.

I always enjoy Sansom's books. They're long, over 500 pages, but they read quickly. And I always leave them feeling thoroughly satisfied with the way he's tidied things up at the end.
Profile Image for Caroline.
498 reviews557 followers
May 28, 2012
Yet another Tudor mystery from the best of the best.

After Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church and made himself head of the Church of England, he just couldn’t make his mind up. Definitely Protestant.....maybe a wee bit less Protestant...... maybe a bit more Catholic. As he swung back and forth people rose and fell from favour, some losing their heads in the process. It was a time when your religious affiliations could carry heavy penalties. In this hothouse world of shifting religious dogma, and the stress of the dissolution of the monasteries, many people clutched at the rantings of the fundamentalist churches.

Shardlake’s client is suffering with religious mania, and is put away in Bedlam for his own safety, least he be found preaching in the streets, and charged as a heretic. In Bedlam he is treated by Shardlake’s wise physician friend Guy Malton.

Meanwhile, we see our favourite barrister once again emeshed in politics – a dangerous place where he least wants to be - as he and his sidekick Barak pursue a violent killer through murder after murder. The storyline is gripping, and the threads of the plot come together superbly well. It’s a pleasure to follow Shardlake in his detective work.

It is also a pleasure to enjoy the friendship that Shardlake shares with several people in the book. He’s a good friend to a lot of people. He never stands in the sidelines when there are difficult emotional issues, but is a true friend to his friends. Sometimes a true friend to his enemies as well.

As always with the Shardlake novels, there is an incredible sense of time and place. You feel drenched in Tudor culture. From a lady’s false teeth (made from wood and human teeth) falling out at a dinner party, to tenuous steps towards medicine based on real anatomy, to the intricacies of a basic sewage system....plus the whole teaming ant hill that is Tudor London. It’s all there – beautifully evoked.

My one sadness is that I have now read all the books in the series, and shall have to wait on tenterhooks with the rest of his fans until another one is written. Write quickly Mr. Sansom.
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