Pamela's Reviews > Dissolution

Dissolution by C.J. Sansom
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Sep 20, 2010

really liked it
Read in September, 2010

Dissolution: C.J. Sansom

Sansom’s first mystery introduces the hero, Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer in the pay of Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII’s Commissioner General and Vicar General. And general scourge of unrepentant papists. It is 1537 and the dissolution of the monasteries is in full swing. The King wants allegiance from all his subjects, and most vitally that of the religious orders, in his new role as head of the Church of England. Despite the all rackings and beheadings of unreformed clerics, their love isn’t so easy to come by. Easier to get though is the wealth and land in held in the clutches of dissolute and thieving monks in monasteries and priories across the land. England being a country of legal precedents the dissolution has to be seen to be lawful. Enter the lawyers. Cromwell, lawyer in chief, sends his commissioner Singleton to uncover illegal carrying on at the (fictional) monastery of Scarnsea. His discoveries apparently get him a grisly death. Shardlake is sent to sniff out the murderer and a surefire reason for dissolving the entire enterprise. His monastic adventures seem to underscore the current contention that the “troubles” of the modern day Catholic Church have their roots in hundreds of years of practice.

This is a great read and as all mysteries should be, a page turner. Personally I think this first novel is better than the third. It is less ambitious in scope and therefore has a tighter plot with fewer diversions and red herrings. Sansom is a great observer of human nature and has good control over the nuance and tension in the social relationships of his characters. The elucidation of the religious issues is particularly well done.

I can’t fully judge the accuracy of the historical details but the author has a Ph.d in history so we can assume so due diligence there. The only thing that peeved me was a soft-hearted twist at the end.

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