During the political and religious unrest of the dissolution of the monasteries, a commissioner from Thomas Cromwell is murdered at a Benedictine monastery that he was sent to investigate. When Commissioner Shardlake is sent to investigate the murder, he finds murder and corruption, and a race against time to find a killer. But nothing is as it seems in Cromwell’s England.
It’s a fascinating time in history, with a great deal of social change at all levels, due to Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic Church’s stranglehold on power. The desire to dissolve the monasteries and claim their land and wealth had huge impact on all levels of society and sparked war with neighbouring countries. All of this is captured at the grassroots level, with Shardlake investigating the clergy, and finding corruption, but also realising that it lies also in the ranks of the Reformers, and feeling the impact on the everyman.
The mystery of who killed the previous Commissioner is complicated by the religious and political differences of Reformer Shardlake and the Catholic monks, with their fear that any act may be used against them and his being tasked with seeking the voluntary surrender of the wealth and property of the place. The book is full of twists and turns, and no one is really innocent in this game. Although I did guess the killer towards the end, I didn’t guess all of the killers… and a large part of the fun here is watching all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
This book is addictive, fast paced and fascinating. An excellent read.
See It If: you like historical fiction or a good murder mystery. This one is great, and the first in a series.