We Have a New Website Coming, It´s a Big Deal, and I´m Burying My Head in a Murder Mystery Set in 1537
May 30, 2012 by Reader's Connection
What really happened: I did a blogpost concerning Hilary Mantel’s most recent novel about Thomas Cromwell, and Glendale Librarian Miriam Guidero said in a comment that “It might be interesting to compare Mantel’s books with C. J. Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series (historical mysteries) which are set in the same time period.”
She suggested that I start with Dissolution, the first in the series. Shardlake is a lawyer and religious reformer who works for Henry VIII’s can-do guy (or can-divorce guy, or in the case of Anne Boleyn can-decapitate guy) Thomas Cromwell, who has been treated as a creep by historians and fiction writers, but is wonderfully sympathetic in Mantel’s novels.
In Dissolution, Cromwell sends Shardlake and a companion to a monastery on the south coast of England, to investigate the murder of his (Cromwell’s) agent. Cromwell has been busy dissolving monasteries and grabbing up the loot, so his agents can’t expect warm welcomes when visiting cloisters; but the beheading of this one (another decapitation!) is going too far.
I’m about 2/3 of the way through the book, and there have been a couple more murders (unless that one fellow really died because he was possessed, as the prior believes.) Lawyer-detective Shardlake respects his boss Cromwell and the mission of religious purification, but it looks as though that respect may crumble as this novel and the series go on. For me, at least–and I’m not a big historical mystery reader–the religious talk doesn’t distract from the intrigue at all.