“ Author: C.J. Sansom / Genre: Crime / Thriller / Mystery / Narrator: Anton Lesser „
I love history and visit all kinds of historic sites of any age. I also love crime novels. This books brings them both together and brings them both together in a lovely way!
This novel is about Henry the 8th and his dissolution of the monestries, it throws in a murder mystery for good measure and hey presto you have a great unique book.
I have this book in audio and in paperback and both are as good as each other, depends which preporation you prefere.
The way the story is brought over is very good in the audio book and it is very easy listening. It is lovely to put on whilst relaxing in the bath and drift away to a time almost forgotten!
I do prefere books as there is something about the smell and feel of a book but sometimes there are times you can not read, like whilst driving. These audio books brilliant for this.
This book has got me hooked and I have purchased the other two in the seris.
I'm not sure how much of the contents of this book are completely true to history so I wouldnt take it a s a history lesson but it is nice to hear what it could have been like in everyday life of Henry 8th times.
If you like history and crime trillers then read/listen to this!
Having read a few reviews about several books in C J Sansom's historical mystery series featuring Matthew Shardlake, I've had these books on my 'to be read' list for quite some time and whilst mooching through the audio books at the library recently, I came across the first of the series, Dissolution, and decided I'd borrow it and listen to it as my walk-to-work entertainment.
Although I can't profess to being a great fan of the Tudors (a bunch of monsters sprung from a usurper with a very tenuous claim to the throne, if you ask me) there's no denying that the reign of Henry VIII was a difficult and dangerous period of political and religious turmoil that perfectly lends itself to a historical mystery featuring gruesome deaths alongside destruction of the powerful religious communities that dominated the economy of England.
The year is 1537 and Henry VIII has just declared himself head of the Church of England and Henry's chief minister and vicar general, Thomas Cromwell, has embarked on a mission to investigate the country's monasteries that will result in their dissolution. At the monastery of Scarnsea in Sussex, one of Cromwell's commissioners, Robin Singleton has been found murdered in a particularly unpleasant way. Not only that but evidence of animal sacrifice has also been discovered and Scarnsea's Great Relic has disappeared.
Cromwell sends Dr Matthew Shardlake to investigate. Shardlake is a supporter of the Reformation but what he discovers at Scarnsea makes him question his deepest held beliefs.
I've always enjoyed a good murder story as well as having a love of history and find the historical mystery genre a perfect vehicle for combining the two genres into one very satisfying whole. Dissolution is a story which grips from the very beginning and this first instalment in the investigations of lawyer, Dr Matthew Shardlake has whetted my appetite for the (currently) four further novels.
Before beginning to listen to this audiobook and given the religious setting, I'd rather expected it to be along the lines of a Tudor-style Cadfael but this is altogether a darker, more convoluted tale and Matthew Shardlake is very far removed in both personality and investigative style from Cadfael. He's very much his own man.
As far as Matthew is concerned, this novel could just as well have been entitled disillusionment because it's obvious from the very start of this tale that Shardlake is weary of the political turmoil brought about by the Reformation and that it was not what he and other young reformers had anticipated. This somewhat cynical attitude makes him the ideal narrator, being a part of and yet apart from events. Matthew's physical condition also sets him further apart from the norm: he's a hunchback which evoked my sympathies to begin with but as the story progressed, I soon realised that he doesn't feel sorry for himself and apart from being unable to ride for long distances without a rest, his condition doesn't prevent him from living a very full and active life. His disability is an excellent way of introducing more modern day sensibilities into the narrative as a person such as Matthew would have been on the receiving end of a great deal of prejudice and this has imbued him with a humanity and consideration for others which was probably lacking in the average man or woman of this period. That being said, Shardlake is not always entirely likeable either as he can be quite irascible at times and is every bit as capable of dishing out cruel words as he is at receiving them.
The feel of time and place within this story are superb and the picture of Tudor life conjured up is entirely believable. C J Sansom never gets too bogged down in the minutiae of Tudor history but nevertheless through his use of language and descriptions, paints a very atmospheric picture of Tudor life with all it's ignorances and harsh realities. The history and political machinations of the time are cleverly woven into the story so that the listener absorbs all details almost by osmosis and, if I'm honest, it was the historical elements of this book that I found more appealing than the actual mystery which although absorbing didn't have a very satisfactory resolution. In that respect, it was probably more true to life than most novels.
Historical crimes by their very time setting need to be solved differently to contemporary crime because these investigations are taking place in a world before the advent of forensic science and, despite, Shardlake's high intelligence, he does seem to miss some very obvious clues from time to time.
As the story is told in the first person, the selection of narrator is of paramount importance and Anton Lesser is an absolutely ideal choice. His light and beautifully modulated RP delivery is perfect for Matthew Shardlake. He doesn't have a particularly distinctive voice unlike some actors who tend to over-enunciate or be very thespian in their delivery and so the narration never overshadows the storytelling. His characterisation of all the other people in the story are very well done, too, and he creates clearly defined personas, including that of a parrot, without ever going over the top with the vocalisation!
This is an abridged version, lasting just shy of 6½ hours, which was the perfect length for a week's worth of walking to and from work. Not having read the book, I'm unsure what has been left out but feel the abridgement has been done well. The narrative flowed smoothly and the story certainly didn't feel at all truncated. If it wasn't for the fact that I already know the ending to this story, I'd be tempted to read the book to find out what was omitted but I suspect it's probably just some descriptive passages.
My one criticism is that sometimes Matthew is a little slow to pick up on very obvious clues which doesn't fit with his level of intelligence but that isn't enough to remove any stars. This is a first rate story and definitely a 5 star one. C J Sansom has produced a gripping mystery set within the very believable and rather frightening Tudor world and that is conveyed extremely well by Anton Lesser's narration. I can't wait to get reading (or listening to) the rest of the series.
Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Supreme Head of the Church and the country is waking up to savage new laws, rigged trials and the greatest network of informers ever seen. Under the order of Thomas Cromwell, a team of commissioners is sent through the country to investigate the monasteries. There can only be 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 alter, and the disappearance of Scarnsea's Great Relic. Matthew Shardlake, lawyer and long-time supporter of Reform, has been sent by Cromwell into this atmosphere of treachery and death.