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by C.J. Sansome

Category: Fiction / Historical
390 pages; ISBN: 0670032034

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner


King Henry VIII selects Thomas Cromwell to destroy the Roman Church through newly enacted laws, phony witchcraft-like trials, and informers in every walk of life. Cromwell performs his assignment with zeal, but also worries about a revolt from the oppressed Papists and others opposed to the newly formed Church of England.

In 1537 Cromwell learns that someone murdered one of his agents Commissioner Singleton while on the King’ s business at the Monastery of St. Donatus the Ascendant of Scarnsea. He enlists lawyer Matthew Shardlake to investigate. Known in the court system for his hunchback, Shardlake and his clerk travel to the Benedictine cloister to make inquiries amongst close-mouthed individuals filled with animosity towards the outsiders. The sleuths find a hotbed of sexual depravity and treasonous acts, but worse to Shardlake, he obtains damaging information about his employer that places Cromwell in a less than holy light and himself in peril for his life. Still he must stop a serial killer from murdering again.

Using historical facts and real persona from the period of “Dissolution of the English Monasteries” (1536-1540), C.J. Sansom provides readers with a vivid Tudor historical mystery. The background is so descriptive it overwhelms the prime theme of a well-written who-done-it in spite of interweaving tidbits into the plot. Shardlake is the glue as he refuses to allow his handicap back from keeping him from performing his duties but struggles with his values once he learns the truth about his mentor. Cromwell is cleverly drawn as a Machiavellian type by using authentic references to his recorded actions. Fans of historical mysteries with an emphasis on the era will appreciate DISSOLUTION.

Harriet Klausner


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