Heartstone


I've noticed recently that my book reviews in the sidebar have got longer and longer... So as a result I've decided to post the longer ones here in the main body of the blog and just offer a pithy line or two in the sidebar... And this is as good a time as any to start, throwing out my suggestions as to what you should, or should not spend any Christmas booktokens on... beginning with C.J. Sansom's "Heartstone."
Actually I have run out of superlatives for this series of books, with this one being the fifth to feature hunch-backed Tudor lawyer and sleuth Matthew Shardlake. This one took longer to pick up the pace and tension, but the power of these books is not in the plot, which is, at times derivative, based on a stock theme eg. the Apocalyptic themes in "Revelation", or the key narrative twist here, which is taken strait from Shakespeare) but rather the meticulous period detail and depth of characterisation. You can smell the ordure and feel the bites of the fleas and lice in this one. And yes, from the introduction of the Mary Rose into the story you knew where it was going, but that was merely the backdrop... Having visited the Mary Rose museum in Portsmouth this year it was all the more vivid for me, but Sansom paints such a richly detailed picture that anyone with a functioning imagination will be drawn in.
Throughout this series a personal interest is the strong understanding of the theological struggles that underpinned so much of everyday life and political policy at this time... This series does for the English reformation what Umberto Eco did for continental European monsticism in the Name of the Rose... And from me, that is high praise...
So if you haven't yet tried the Shardlake series, get hold of "Dissolution" and start at the beginning... If you have followed Master Shardlake's story so far, you won't be disappointed with this episode.

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