Andrea Bowhill's Reviews > Revelation

Revelation by C.J. Sansom
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's review
Oct 27, 2009

really liked it
Read in August, 2009

C.J.Sansom fourth Tudor novel brings us forward to Spring 1543. King Henry VIII has now recovered from his embarrassment of fifth wife Catherine Howard's adultery; who subsequently lost her head twice; once too Thomas Culpeper and the second was a fatal blow of an axe. Henry's obesity was now way out of control; and these days needed help getting back in the saddle; a new hunt had been planned. His latest quest the wooing of Lady Latimer (Catherine Parr) who was known for her reformist sympathies. Henry had taken a fancy for the Lady a couple of years earlier, the fact she was married had stopped him. But Lady Latimer's husband had been dead a full week; there was little doubt Henry would now make his move; he was looking for a sixth wife.

Meanwhile crookback London Lawyer Matthew Shardlake had sworn off getting himself involved in anymore affairs of state after his York and Sovereign experience a few years back. Remaining at home in Chancery Lane and around Lincoln's Inn this time; he had started working on a case of a teenage boy; who had been placed in the Bedlam insane asylum. The boy had been sprouting mocking passages in god's name; many thought him possessed. An Interesting case for Shardlake; one he needs to resolve soon, the religious mania could lead the boy to be burned as a heretic if not careful.

Shardlake new case was about to be pushed aside after he finds his old friend and fellow lawyer Roger Elliard with his throat cut in Lincoln's Inn fountain. Shardlake pays his condolences to friend Dorothy Elliard the widow she informs Shardlake of some strange happenings before her husband's death; he promises Dorothy he will find the killer. But darker forces are at work; Shardlake approaches the King's coroner for a detailed report of his dead friend, but there seems to be a cover up. Archbishop Cranmer has also taken interest in this case; Cranmer confines a secret to Shardlake one to be kept from the king or they could both lose their heads. Once again Cranmer and Shardlake have no choice but to remain in league with one another.

Shardlake regroups his friends Jack Barak and Guy Malton for this unholy investigation, bodies start mounting in gruesome but somehow symbolic positions. They are now in pursuit of a serial killer who in turn teases his pursuers. Before long they realize the killings are based on a holy art form; dark prophecies from the Book of Revelation. Any ounce of religious convictions in Shardlake lay in shatters.

Once again Sansom's structures each chapter and plot of this book extremely well; using very descriptive lines to twist some betrayal, dishonesty with religious and political chaos. Fantastic writing as the story takes from The Book of Revelation; which was made open knowledge to the common people in those times through the King's reforms. Sansom's spins a dark, imaginative story from turbulent religious times; even pulling off the psychology of the tudor with belief in demons and witchcraft.

Wonderfully visuals on 16th century London; noted sights that can still be seen today; names of certain Lanes; the Inns of Chancery, attached Inns, South Bank, ancient City walls. Your imagination locks in and runs away with it (well mine did) as if you feel yourself wading through those horrendous mucky streets with the complete stench and bustling brutality of life.

The cast of characters; an array of real names in history and fictitious mixes, the perfect balance. Guy Malton from the first two books is back for this one; on hand to help matters out. Jack Barak now married; but already problems have arisen for him. Shardlake the logical voice for all around; trying to sort out one mess after another; but what he really wants is to settle down. Shardlake with humanity always in his heart, even though we all think he deserves happiness, sexual tension or just a kiss, getting cosy will have too wait, us readers need him more for the next installment.

Another great read in this series; Wonderful History Recommended.

Andrea Bowhill.

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