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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Dissolution (R.I.P. & Unread Author Challenges)

Sansom, C.J. Dissolution. I put this one on my TBR list sometime back, then Jill posted about it and renewed my interest; when the R.I.P. and Unread Author Challenges came up, I finally ordered the book. Given Jill's recommendation, the subject matter (dissolution of monasteries), time period (Tudor era), and genre (mystery), I was pretty sure that I would like this one...and I did.

Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer, a royal commissioner under Thomas Cromwell, and a hunchback. When Cromwell orders him to solve the murder of another royal commissioner at the Scarnsea monastery, Matthew has no choice. He and Mark Poer find a complicated set of individuals and behaviors at the monastery and evidence of quite a few misdeeds and secrets. Then...another murder.

Gothic elements: monks, monastery, mystery, secret passages, etc. Historic tidbits include information about the Reformation and various viewpoints, the dissolution of the monasteries, the power-hungry and greedy attitude that accompanied many "reformers," a bit out about Ann Boleyn, Jane Seymour, and Mark Smeaton.

Matthew Shardlake is a genuine believer in the Reformation, but is forced to confront some of the aspects to which he has willfully blinded himself...about his master and about religious reform. Shardlake is intelligent, flawed, interesting, and ethical in a difficult time.

In May, Jill mentioned Dissolution again and posted some great links that you might want to check out. Mary and Ann have also given it a thumbs up.

I will certainly want to follow up with Dark Fire and Sovereign.

An interview with the author

Fiction. Historical/mystery. 2003. 390 pages.


  1. it sounds a lot like the Miles Vorkosigan series by Bujold--although she's sci-fi and not historical.

    I've always been a great fan.

    I'll have to check this one out...

  2. I've often eyed this one at the bookstore but haven't picked it up yet. I think I may have to do so soon.

  3. jodi -- I'm not familiar with this series, but I love science fiction, and I've added the first two books (Shards of Honor and Barrayer) to my wishlist.

    Not sure when I will be able to get to them, but Thanks!

    tanabata -- I love the Tudor and Elizabethan eras both in fiction and in fact; combining the historical period with a good mystery is irresistable.

  4. What an interesting article on Knopf, Jenclair. I had to smile at how a reader described Anne Frank's Diary:

    "a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions."

    How wrong he or she was!

  5. Lotus -- and how embarrassed when it was published and found its audience!

  6. I really enjoyed listening to the audio version of Dissolution. I am going to follow up with these links. Shardlake is a very interesting character. I think this is some of the best historical fiction I've read in a long time.

  7. Camille -- Dissolution IS great historical fiction, and a darned good mystery, too.