Lamentation (Matthew Shardlake) by C J Sansom

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Lamentation (Matthew Shardlake) by C J Sansom

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The sixth book is the Shardlake series is an engrossing read and worth the four year wait since th last book. Definitely recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 650 Date: October 2014
Publisher: Mantle
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0230744196

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The reign of Henry VIII is drawing to a close. It's heresy to speculate on the death of the king, but obvious to anyone who sees the bloated man who can barely walk that he cannot have much longer. Matthew Shardlake is still drawn to the queen - Catherine Parr as was - but he'd prefer to avoid court politics particularly when there's someone as suggestible and changeable as Henry on the throne. Ultimately though he doesn't feel that he has much choice when he's summoned to Whitehall Palace. It seems that the queen has a problem which could put her life in danger - along with the lives of all those who are seen as her supporters.

The queen has been, well, indiscreet. She had written a book - Lamentations of a Sinner about her own personal journey to faith. That might sound quite reasonable, even worthy, but these are delicate times and she's laid herself open to charges of heresy and at the very least could be accused of keeping secrets from the king. A very senior churchman advised her to destroy the book, but Catherine was reluctant to do this. Instead she kept it in an oak chest in her bedroom and she had the only key which she kept on a chain around her neck. And then, one night, the manuscript was stolen - and the queen called Shardlake in to retrieve it.

It's easy to assume that because of Henry's split from Rome he had moved away from Catholic ideology, but this couldn't be further from the truth. He believed himself to have been chosen by God to be the head of the church in England, and was adamant that everyone should believe in transubstantiation - the conversion of bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord at the Mass. To deny this was to risk being charged with heresy and possibly burnt at the stake. (There is a description of such a burning very early in the book, which might upset some readers.) It's easy to see why people were particularly careful not to deny transubstantiation - no matter what they really believed. This might sound rather obtuse, but believe me it makes for some very interesting reading.

Shardlake has his law practice to run no matter what demands the queen makes on him and he's finding one case troublesome. An adult brother and sister are at loggerheads over their mother's will, which seems to have been written with the intention of making them fight. It's a fascinating story. And then there's Shardlake's home: his steward is off hand with a maid but Shardlake cannot understand why and there's a young lad who is reluctant to move on to an apprenticeship which might be the making of him.

The plot is twisty and very satisfying: I wasn't expecting the final twist and revelation of who was behind the intrigue against the queen and as ever the characters are superb. Even bit players come alive in Sanson's hands and you feel that you would know them in he street. Add to this a real feel for sixteenth century London and you can see why I read the book over three very enjoyable days and was sorry when I turned the final page. I just hope that we don't have to wait another four years for the next book.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

This might tempt you ito reading another great Tudor book - Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

C J Sansom's Matthew Shardlake Novels in Chronological Order

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