|Shardlake Book 6|
The latter days of the reign of Henry VIII are overshadowed by political and religious strife. No one who has any religious conviction feels safe to worship any religion other than that which is dictated by the King. For Queen Catherine Parr, Henry’s last stoical Protestant Queen, there are forces at work who would like to see nothing more than her downfall. When the Queen’s highly controversial confessional book goes missing, Shardlake is enlisted to track down the book on the pretext of looking for a missing jewel. Should anyone discover the real reason for Shardlake’s investigation, then the Queen, and all who are associated with her will be brought down.
Sansom writes about the Tudor age with great conviction, and allows Shardlake, as always, to take centre stage. The superb attention to detail, from the closeted elegance of the Tudor Court, through to the raggle-taggle print works in Paternoster Row, takes the reader on a journey through the vagaries of life in London during 1546. The noise, the stink, the sheer perversity of living alongside cut purses and murderers, as well as the stirrings of religious mania gives Shardlake one of his most complicated investigations. It’s a real joy to watch the pernickety lawyer and his dastardly sidekick, Jack Barak, go about solving such a convoluted murder mystery.
It’s a hefty read, well over 600 pages, filled with the usual subplots, red herrings and dangerous subterfuges, and if I have to be a little bit picky, I would say that its about 200 pages overlong, however, having said that, the story flows well; the political and religious turmoil is written about with great authority and the portrait painted of the failing Henry VIII, is both poignant and terrifying in equal measure.
I can’t see any time soon when Sansom’s legions of fans don’t demand another Shardlake adventure. The ending of this one certainly lends itself to a continuation and I for one, can’t wait to see where Shardlake's story goes next.