10 June 2009

From my database: DISSOLUTION, C.J. Sansom

I started using my current database at the end of 2004, and it now has records of well over 500 books. It occurred to me the other day that there is some perfectly good material in that database, just waiting to be used in my blog.

So from time to time, I will use one as the basis of a blog posting.

DISSOLUTION was the first in C. J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake series.

It is 1537, a time of revolution that sees the greatest changes in England since 1066. Henry VIII has procliamed himslef the Supreme Head of the Church. The country is waking up to new savage laws, rigged trials and the greatest network of informers that it has ever seen. Under the orders of Thomas Cromwell, a team of commissioners is sent throughout the country to investigate the monasteries. There can be only one outcome: the monasteries are to be dissolved.
But on the Sussex coast, at the monastery of Scarnsea, events have spiralled out of control. Cromwell's commissioner, Robin Singleton, has been found dead, his head severed from his body. His horrific murder is accompanied by equally sinister acts of sacrilege - a black cockerel sacrificed on the church altar and the disappearance of Scarnsea's Great relic.
Dr. Matthew Shardlake, lawyer and long-time supporter of Reform, has been sent by Cromwell into this atmosphere of treachery and death, accompanied by his loyal assistant Mark. His duty is to uncover the truth behind the dark happenings at Scarnsea.
Shardlake's investigation soon forces him to question everything that he hears, and everything that he intrinsically believes..

My comment:
DISSOLUTION is set in a period that I have always found fascinating.
A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS became one of my favourite films, and Thomas Cromwell, as portrayed by Leo McKern, an image difficult to dislodge.

Although set 300 years later, this book reminded me a lot of the Brother Cadfael books. I found it a bit slow to start with, but the plot was clever and the characters well drawn. An interesting picture of the turmoil that resulted in Anne Boleyn's execution. At the time of the book, Jane Seymour has just died and Cromwell survives. The impact of the dissolution of the monasteries is well described and Henry VIII's need for them to agree to their own dissolution in the name of Reform gives an interesting perspective.

My rating was 5.0

The series:

1. Dissolution (2003)
2. Dark Fire (2004)
3. Sovereign (2006)
4. Revelation (2008)

DISSOLUTION has been Amazon UK's Amazon UK's Crime fiction the top 100 for 738 days - that's over 2 years. DARK FIRE won the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger in 2005, while REVELATION was shorlisted for the same award in 2008.
SOVEREIGN was shortlisted for the Theakston's Old Peculier Award in 2008, and in May 2008 DISSOLUTION and DARK FIRE were both in the Amazon UK Crime Fiction top 10.

So if you are looking for really good crime fiction in a historical setting, here is a series to choose.


Anonymous said...

I haven't read these, though I do have a couple of them as I thought one of my daughters, a history student, might like them. They all study the Tudors ad nauseam over here so maybe she had had enough of them, though she likes Philippa Gregory and other similar novelists of the period (eg Alison Weir has just written a couple of Wars of Roses era novels which my daughter enjoyed).

I have seen this Sheldrake series very widely praised by reviewers. People say that even if you don't usually go for historical crime (I mean the subgenre rather than "crime books that have a historical aspect") you will like these books, so I will try Dissolution, as that is one of the two we have. (The other one is about number 4 - the titles are all so similar I got them muddled up and bought no 4 first, thinking it was no 1.)

Anonymous said...

PS Just noticed your "my faithful commenters" sidebar. I fear I am unlikely to feature on there because sometimes Google/Blogger does not like my Open ID so I have to use my Blogger account - therefore you'll probably be counting me as two different people and I'll never make the pinnacle of Dorte or Bernadette!

BooksPlease said...

I'm a big fan of C J Sansom and have enjoyed all his books. Have you read the others in the Shardlake series? I wrote about the fourth one here.

And I remember A Man For All Seasons very well - Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More, a wonderful film.

Kerrie said...

I'm not convinced that Faithful commentators widget is working properly Maxine - the numbers haven't changed since I installed it a couple of nights ago and I know the leading "contenders" have both commented since then.

I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on DISSOLUTION.

Kerrie said...

I thought I had read the second Marg, but perhaps I have just intended to. I think it may have been one of those library borrowings I had to return because the due date came around. Perhaps some books for my next long trip.
I had to read Sir Thomas More's Utopia as a history student, and that gave " A man for All Seasons" special meaning for me. I used to show it to my own history students annually, and almost knew the script off by heart. The first time I had seen either Paul Schofield or Leo McKern.

gautami tripathy said...

I better get into reading more of crime fiction. This does sound good.

BTW, I read three Colin Cotterill novels and a Vicki Delany.

Sunnie Gill said...

I adored DISSOLUTION. I've got his latest book in my TBR pile here. I think historical crime fiction is one of the hardest in the genre to get exactly right and Sansom does it beautifully.

Kerrie said...

Colin Cotterill is great Gautami isn't he. And I have another Vicki Delany here to read

Kerrie said...

Sunnie have oyu read all the Sansoms? You may have been the one who directed me to DISSOLUTION in the first place

Kerrie said...

The "faithful commentators" gadget currently counts up the top posters in the last 500, so it is quite on the cards that someone's number of posts will go down and the number of people leaving comments increases. In fact that is what has happened today. There is plenty of room at the top though. I got the idea from Cathy at Kittling Books. It doesn't count my answers.

Sunnie Gill said...

Guatami, Cotterill is good isn't he.

Kerrie, I've read 3 of the 4 Sansom's. I have Revelation sitting here waiting for me.

Marg said...

Sansom is one of my one day authors! I have been meaning to read him...one day. I am pretty sure I will like it when I do finally getting around to reading one of his books!

Bernadette said...

I am excited to hear about this author Kerrie...sadly the only audiobooks are abridged (ugh) but I'll be looking for the print versions. I'm quite into historical fiction at the moment (despite my feelings on Silent in the Grave). Thanks for tip.

I shall have to knock Dorte off tha perch :) But I do have a 'thing' about only commenting when I have something to say so I won't be popping in just to get the top spot

Kerrie said...

Our library seems to have them all Bernadette :-). Or perhaps you can Mooch them


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