Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake Series #1)

Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake Series #1)

4.1 61
by C. J. Sansom
     
 

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From the bestselling author of Winter in Madrid and Dominion comes the exciting and elegantly written first novel in the Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery series

Dissolution is an utterly riveting portrayal of Tudor England. The year is 1537, and the country is divided between those faithful to the Catholic Church and

Overview

From the bestselling author of Winter in Madrid and Dominion comes the exciting and elegantly written first novel in the Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery series

Dissolution is an utterly riveting portrayal of Tudor England. The year is 1537, and the country is divided between those faithful to the Catholic Church and those loyal to the king and the newly established Church of England. When a royal commissioner is brutally murdered in a monastery on the south coast of England, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s feared vicar general, summons fellow reformer Matthew Shardlake to lead the inquiry. Shardlake and his young protégé uncover evidence of sexual misconduct, embezzlement, and treason, and when two other murders are revealed, they must move quickly to prevent the killer from striking again.

A "remarkable debut" (P. D. James), Dissolution introduces a thrilling historical series that is not to be missed by fans of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.

 

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The sights, the voices, the very smell of this turbulent age seem to rise from the page. With his remarkable debut, C. J. Sansom can lay claim to a place among the most distinguished of modern historical novelists." —P. D. James

"Sansom seems to have been born with, or instinctively acquired, that precious balance of creativity and research that lets a mystery set in another time walk a delicate line between history and humanity." —Chicago Tribune

"With this cunningly plotted and darkly atmospheric effort, Sansom proves himself to be a promising newcomer." —Publishers Weekly

"This is a humdinger of a whodunnit. Read it!" —Colin Dexter

Publishers Weekly
Murders on the grounds of a monastery, 16th-century intrigue, an unconventional sleuth-readers might wonder if this is a knock-off Name of the Rose set two centuries later, but Sansom's debut is a compelling historical mystery in its own right, with fewer pyrotechnics and plenty of period detail. It is 1537; the English Reformation is in full swing; and Lord Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII's vicar-general, is busy shutting down papist institutions. When one of his commissioners is beheaded at a remote Benedictine monastery, Cromwell dispatches a second emissary, hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake, to investigate the murder. What Shardlake and his companion, eager young Mark Poer, discover is a quietly bubbling cesspool of corruption, lust and avarice. The scope of the investigation quickly expands when a novice is poisoned and Shardlake finds the remains of a girl who served the monks in the monastery pond. Shardlake presses on by testing the alibis of the various corrupt monks, but Poer's objectivity is compromised when he becomes involved with the girl's successor, a bright, attractive woman named Alice Fewterer. As the investigation unfolds, Shardlake survives a murder attempt, and finally returns to London to tie his findings to higher-level intrigue. Sansom paints a vivid picture of the corruption that plagued England during the reign of Henry VIII, and the wry, rueful Shardlake is a memorable protagonist, a compassionate man committed to Cromwell's reforms, but increasingly doubtful of the motives of his fellow reformers. With this cunningly plotted and darkly atmospheric effort, Sansom proves himself to be a promising newcomer. (Apr. 28) Forecast: Readers who want something a step up in complexity from Ellis Peters's Cadfael series will find this satisfying fare. Foreign rights have already been sold in England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy and Spain, and Sansom will be introduced in the U.S. with a six-city author tour. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A historical mystery set in England in 1537, this first novel chronicles Vicar General Thomas Cromwell's aggressive efforts to close down monasteries throughout the realm. Ardent reformist lawyer Matthew Shardlake, rejected for the priesthood because of his hunched back and now a bitter enemy of the Catholic Church, aids Cromwell in his mission. His latest task is to discover who brutally murdered a fellow commissioner at a remote monasery. While investigating the slaying, he is also charged with "encouraging" the abbot to dissolve his monastery voluntarily. Naturally, solving the murder is far from straightforward, and terrible weather, uncooperative monks, and a distractingly attractive female servant bogs down the investigation. With a Ph.D. in history and a background in law, Sansom clearly harbors a deep affection for and knowledge of this historical period. However, his novel is unrelentingly grim in tone, as the reader is forced to plod along with Shardlake and the other mostly unlikable characters. Although the novel can be superficially compared with the historical mysteries of Iain Pears and Umberto Eco, their caliber of writing is much higher than Sansom's. Appropriate for large public libraries only. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/02.]-Laurel Bliss, Yale Arts Lib. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A brilliant lawyer investigates murder in a monastery that's under attack by Henry VIII's greedy forces of secularism. It's 1537, and Dr. Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer operating on the fringes of the rapacious Tudor court, has been handed a case that may advance his career but is more likely to sink it. Thomas Cromwell, Henry's powerful and ruthless vicar general, has charged Shardlake with the investigation of a grisly crime on what should be holy ground: the Benedictine monastery in Scarnsea, Sussex. A lawyer sent down previously to lean on Scarnsea's abbot about a possible signing over of the monastery to the crown lost his head. With a sword. Shardlake, a great brain in a twisted body (he's a hunchback), can't say no. Having risen by his wits to a profitable legal career and ownership of a comfortable house in the city, he is indebted to his monarch's machinery. Besides, he, like Cromwell and, supposedly, the king, is firmly committed to the great religious reforms that have all but taken the country to war with the once supremely rich and powerful monasteries. Accompanied by his young clerk Mark, Shardlake plods through the frozen countryside to Scarnsea. What he finds is an institution despised by its neighbors, depleted by the reforms, demoralized by revelations of sodomy and unchasteness, and thoroughly spooked by the decapitation of the royal emissary. Understandably suspicious of nearly everyone, Shardlake comes to rely warily on the monastery's Moorish medic and becomes unhappily attracted to Alice, the comely and clever serving girl. Grilling his suspects like a modern detective, he sifts through the inevitable red herrings, turns up a new corpse, and dodges death by fallingstatuary. Handsome Mark, meanwhile, is getting lustful looks from the master of music and growing more familiar with Alice than suits the lawyer. And London is pressing for the case to be wrapped up. The right way. Spooky atmosphere and a wealth of fascinating historical tidbits suffer from rather grinding detective work.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780142004302
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/27/2004
Series:
Matthew Shardlake Series, #1
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
105,170
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.70(d)

What People are saying about this

Peter Robinson
Dissolution is a terrific novel. Not only does C.J. Sansom present a fully-realised picture of life in Reformation England-its sounds, sights, smells and politics-but he also gives an intriguing puzzle and, in the form of Dr. Matthew Shardlake, a fascinating character caught in a balancing act of faith, humanity and allegiance as he tries to solve a series of horrible crimes. This is historical crime fiction at its finest.
From the Publisher
"The sights, the voices, the very smell of this turbulent age seem to rise from the page. With his remarkable debut, C. J. Sansom can lay claim to a place among the most distinguished of modern historical novelists." —P. D. James

"Sansom seems to have been born with, or instinctively acquired, that precious balance of creativity and research that lets a mystery set in another time walk a delicate line between history and humanity." —Chicago Tribune

"With this cunningly plotted and darkly atmospheric effort, Sansom proves himself to be a promising newcomer." —Publishers Weekly

"This is a humdinger of a whodunnit. Read it!" —Colin Dexter

Meet the Author

C. J. Sansom, the internationally bestselling author of the novels Winter in Madrid and Dominion and the Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery series, earned a Ph.D. in history and was a lawyer before becoming a full-time writer.

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Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
King Henry VIII selects Thomas Cromwell to destroy the Roman Church through newly enacted laws, phony witchcraft-like trials, and informers in every walk of life. Cromwell performs his assignment with zeal, but also worries about a revolt from the oppressed Papists and others opposed to the newly formed Church of England.

In 1537 Cromwell learns that someone murdered one of his agents Commissioner Singleton while on the King¿ s business at the Monastery of St. Donatus the Ascendant of Scarnsea. He enlists lawyer Matthew Shardlake to investigate. Known in the court system for his hunchback, Shardlake and his clerk travel to the Benedictine cloister to make inquiries amongst close-mouthed individuals filled with animosity towards the outsiders. The sleuths find a hotbed of sexual depravity and treasonous acts, but worse to Shardlake, he obtains damaging information about his employer that places Cromwell in a less than holy light and himself in peril for his life. Still he must stop a serial killer from murdering again.

Using historical facts and real persona from the period of ¿Dissolution of the English Monasteries¿ (1536-1540), C.J. Sansom provides readers with a vivid Tudor historical mystery. The background is so descriptive it overwhelms the prime theme of a well-written who-done-it in spite of interweaving tidbits into the plot. Shardlake is the glue as he refuses to allow his handicap back from keeping him from performing his duties but struggles with his values once he learns the truth about his mentor. Cromwell is cleverly drawn as a Machiavellian type by using authentic references to his recorded actions. Fans of historical mysteries with an emphasis on the era will appreciate DISSOLUTION.

Harriet Klausner

catwak More than 1 year ago
This pedestrian mystery improved my medieval vocabulary but did little else to hold my attention. For readers who are seriously interested in Thomas Cromwell's England, I would suggest Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" instead.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A very impressive first novel by C. J. Sansom. 'Dissolution' is a wonderfully crafted work. In the true nature of a cozy mystery, the setting is exotic (1537, Henry VIII's and Lord Thomas Cromwell's England), and the mystery is self-contained within a small community (Scarnsea Abbey). The protagonist (Matthew Shardlake, a hunchback) and his assistant (Mark Poer) are both colorful and flawed. Sansom uses description expertly without incorporating graphic detail designed only to shock the reader. It is a novel written to inspire thought more than to thrill. Sansom has done an impressive job of bringing alive the Reformation and the politics surrounding the collapse of the Roman Catholic Church in England and mingling the history with a superb mystery. I look forward to reading future works by C. J. Sansom.
Chloe123 More than 1 year ago
So often when the facts are wrong in a historical novel of any kind, it is a big turn off to anyone with a knowledge of history. This is not the case with this author. He is dead on with his facts,even with the personalities of famous persons. At first I found lawyer Matthew Shardlake an unsympathic hero, being one of the men who were involved with the "Dissolution" of the monastic life in England. But by the end of the book I was appreciating the very human emotions & inner conflicts that the author placed within this character and others about this drastic change. Though the story wandered a bit in the middle, and the ending a little predictable , it was good enough to make me add this author to my list of medieval fiction/mystery writers. The author will only get better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the most accurate, fun to read and nail biting suspense filled books you will ever read. Make sure to pick up DARK FIRE and SOVEREIGN after you finish this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
He¿s a lawyer appointed by Thomas Cromwell the vicar-general of King Henry VIII to solve the crime of a commissioner. His name Matthew Shardlake, hunchback and loyal, his helper Mark Poer, handsome. England 1537 the conflict between the Church and King Henry VII. Division between those loyal to the church and those loyal to the king. On his search for the truth at Scarnsea he finds out that there was not only one murder but more and were covered. He questions himself if he should stay loyal to the church or the king. His life becomes in danger while he stuck between four walls and a mystery to solve. I recommend this book if you enjoy mysteries and enjoy the subject of church vs. king. To read this book you have to have patience because at first it¿s boring but then things start to clear out. I was satisfy with the book because I basically knew most of the historical information. I didn¿t like the beginning of the book because it was too long the way he described things was confusing. If you can keep up with the book you in good shape, because it¿s all about patience and understanding. What caught my attention was the way he made a disable person be the protagonist, showing the reader that in life there is no obstacles.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a history major and read a great many mysteries. One or two factual errors and I close the book. Dissolution was superb and cost the better part of a night's sleep as I could not put it down. I passed it along to my two history major children who also loved it. We need LOTS more from this author!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The time of the Reformation (1536-1540); King Henry VIII sets to his vicar general Thomas Cromwell the task of dissolving the intricate feudal network of the Catholic Church in order to install the newly formed Protestant Church of England (the Anglican faith). It is a time of both fear and change. The common people have reason to fear the representatives of both churches, and England is divided into the followers of Cromwell (whom friends of which wish to profit from the cheap acquisition of land previously allocated to the wealthy abbots and their monasteries) and of the followers of the old faith in all its Latin pomposity and remoteness from the masses. The outspoken are accused of treason and informers abound in this period of religious uncertainty. Ordered to investigate the murder of one of Cromwell's commissioners at a Benedictine monastery, lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant are sent to the dying port town of Scarnsea on the Sussex coast. Here the monks dominate the town, and the resentment of the village folk is one of the reasons Cromwell wishes to keep the news of the murder from both the public and the King. A discreet inquiry is needed while pursuing the 'surrender' of the wealthy monastery to the crown. Shardlake is a true believer of the new faith and religious reform but as secrets of the monastery are brought to light, he begins to doubt the integrity of the cause, and of its instigators. Quite simply, this was a terrific book. It is a magnet to your hands, and not entirely because it is an extremely engaging murder mystery that follows the winning formula of clues, betrayals, threats to the investigator etc. It is the age, the life of England that is so beautifully and intricately portrayed that it does truly leap off the pages and into the room. This book would rapidly become a favourite to anyone who enjoys historicals and a little crossing of the genre boundaries. Never let this book out of your house! == Andrea Thompson
hashack More than 1 year ago
Loved the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful series!!!!
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ArizonaDailyStar More than 1 year ago
This book was good, enjoyed the storyline.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What's not to like? More accurately a comissioner from Thomas Cromwell's staff is the main character. Good period description.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mojo_Jo_Jo More than 1 year ago
This is the book that got me hooked on C.J. Sansom titles...truly excellent. One of my favorite authors and Shardlake is one of my favorite characters!
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