…[this] exceptional, knock-your-socks-off…novel has it all: an ingenious plot, ceaseless suspense, villains galore, tipsy priests, a bull-baiting, a stag hunt, several murders, the horrors of war, a brooding sense of evil and a glittering portrait of a fascinating age. I rank it with Iain Pears's An Instance of the Fingerpost (1998) among the very best of recent historical thrillers.
The Washington Post
Heartstone may be the best novel in this richly entertaining and reassuringly scholarly series…With his customary grace, Sansom places Shardlake's rousing fictional adventures into an authentic historical context…History never seemed so real.
The New York Times
Few contemporary authors are as adept as Sansom at blending a whodunit with a sweeping historical epic, as shown by his fifth mystery featuring English attorney Matthew Shardlake (after 2009's Revelation). In 1545, as a French fleet threatens invasion, the English queen, Catherine Parr, asks Shardlake to look into a matter for an old servant, whose son committed suicide shortly after filing a protest about the wardship of a boy the son had tutored. Soon after accepting this assignment, Shardlake is assaulted by a gang of thugs, who warn him to drop the matter. On his own, he also probes the past of a Bedlam inmate, Ellen Fettiplace, who was institutionalized 20 years earlier after being raped. Both cases turn out to be extremely complex, and Shardlake, who puts justice above his personal interests, ends up with several murders to solve as well. Strong prose makes Tudor England instantly accessible, and the clockwork plotting sustains deep interest throughout. (Jan.)
Set in the summer of 1545, Sansom's fifth novel (after Revelation) in his award-winning Tudor series opens as England is tensed for a French invasion. Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer dangerously out of the King's favor, is hired by Queen Catherine Parr to investigate the death of her servant's son. On the journey south to interview witnesses, Shardlake discovers a connection between the Queen's case and a friend who was mysteriously imprisoned in Bedlam decades earlier. Familiarity with prior novels in the series is not necessary, as Sansom details Shardlake's history and troubled past with the King with the same narrative ease with which he explains England's political and legal systems and frequent warring with France. The author also expands on the riveting plot by exploring the ethical and moral considerations of the law and its interpreters. VERDICT Enjoyable for mystery, thriller, and historical fiction readers, this is also recommended to fans of all things Tudor (Showtime's The Tudors; Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl; Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall).—Catherine Lantz, Morton Coll. Lib., Cicero, IL
Matthew Shardlake, the hunchback serjeant of the Tudor courts, undertakes his fifthseries of cases (Revelation, 2009, etc.).
Henry VIII is marshaling forces for a war with France, but no one will conscript a crippledlawyer. Instead, Shardlake is commanded by the queen when his longtime patron,Queen Catherine, asks him to investigate corruption in the Court of Wards. Shardlake's task is togo to the Hampshire estate of the Hobbey family and investigate their custody of the teenagedHugh Curteys and his dead sister Emma. This assignment dovetails neatly with his personalobligation to an agoraphobic, Ellen Fettiplace, who cannot bring herself to leave the asylum ofBedlam. Matthew hopes to uncover the terrible events that cost her her wits, events that handilytranspired not far from the Hobbey manor. Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak ride fromLondon to Hampshire with the king's recruits, only to find that Hugh Curteys is apparentlysatisfied with his foster family. Dogged investigation of the Hobbey estate reveals nothing—untilAbigail Hobbey is shot through the head during a stag hunt. Meanwhile, a long-dead body, newlydiscovered, may hold the key to healing Ellen. Can Shardlake and Barak bring justice before theFrench invade?
The characters are sympathetic and the quirks of the historic courts interesting enough,but the plot is so tangled in the tedium of troop movements and provisions that it drags on longerthan Catherine and Henry's marriage. Best for historical sticklers, military fans andencyclopedists.