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Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake, #1) by C.J. SansomI very rarely bother with crime novels. The genre feels overdone and, well, a little bit boring. To me it all looks like the same regurgitated story. I blame the terrible police dramas on television; they make me yawn when I see how stupid they are. I did a two year course in forensic science, and it never ceases to amaze me how the writers of these television shows think that wearing gloves will therefore mean that the crime scene is not contaminated by the otherwise exposed investigators. Never mind the fact that they are trampling over evidence, leaving their own hairs and jumping to ridiculous conclusions based upon preliminary testing. These things are horribly inaccurate to the professional field; they are always forensically inaccurate. So, regardless of how this is handled in modern crime books, I always avoid them to avoid similar annoyance. This, however, isn’t a modern crime book.
This is a murder mystery set in the political upheaval of Tudor England. The churches are undergoing dissolution, hence the title of the book. This, to me, sounded utterly fantastic. I mean, at last, a crime book that I want to read. I have a real interest in the Tudor period of history. It was a reign that changed the face of England. I mean, imagine how different the country would be today if King Henry VIII never broke with Rome, and with the Pope. Arguments between branches of Christianity may never have become so heated. King Charles I may never have been executed for his Catholic sympathies, amongst other things. The Dissolution with the Catholic Church changed the face of England forever along with its sequential history.
Murder in the monastery
This book combines a classic whodunit scenario with the intrigue of the sixteenth century; it is brilliantly handled. At the heart of this book is a very human character: Matthew Shardlake. Shardlake is a commissioner sent, by Thomas Cromwell, to investigate his predecessor’s murder at a monastery. Shardlake has a twisted back so is consequently spurned by the religious zealots of the time. This immediately drew upon my sympathy. He is obviously no different to his peers, but for all their supposed enlightenment, toward the religious reforms, they still shallowly judge someone for their appearance. It’s a cruel world. This along with Shardlake’s unsuccessfulness with the ladies, results in a very damaged yet resolute commissioner.
This is not Thomas More’s Utopia, a nation of innocent savages waiting only for God’s word to complete their happiness. This is a violent realm, stewed in the corruption of a decadent church.
Thus, his investigation is no easy affair. He is met with disgust, scorn and damn right revulsion at every turn. But, he overcomes it. He is used to it, and has risen far above it. He gets on with his job and sets out to find what caused the death of a supposedly innocent man. Shardlake is clever, compassionate and determined. He has the nose of a bloodhound. He analyses the facts in a pragmatic way; he doesn’t jump to conclusion and only delivers a realistic approach to the crime. He questions everything, which left me in a continuous state of suspense until he found his answers.
The historical setting of the churches, the towns and the people are brought to life. The turmoil the age is captured along with the skulduggery of its inhabitants. Thomas Cromwell is portrayed as a mean old brute which is quite interesting after reading Hilary Mantel’s version of him in which he is sympathised with, greatly. The scenario in this book kept me questioning everything. At one point there were at least seven suspects. Each had a strong motive. As the focus of the suspicion changed, so did the plausibility of each motive. I am proud to say, that my initial guess was half right. I’ll say no more on that regard, other than this had a really intense ending. Its a great read.
1. Dissolution- A suspense filled four stars.
2. Dark Fire- A dark 3.5 stars
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