Dissolution – CJ Sansom

SANSOM brought historical crime fiction into the mainstream with her chunky tale of tortuous with labyrinthine plotting, painstakingly-created setting and downbeat but memorable hero.

Dissolution wasn’t literature in the same vein as The Name of the Rose, it was simply a more gripping, twice-as-big version of the kind of mystery novels written by the likes of Susanna Gregory, Ellis Peters and Paul Doherty.

Sansom’s story was followed by several equally enthralling cases for hunchback lawyer Shardlake,

like Dark Fire, Lamentation and the latest hardback Tombland.

Dissolution also spawned a new interest in historical crime amongst the general public, sending newcomers like Rory Clements and SJ Parris into the book charts.

Anyway, back to the original and the best – newly republished in a ten-year edition -- a slow-burning read, gradually building up a complex mystery and gradually dragging the reader in.

The year is 1637 and Henry VIII is deep into his drive to make himself Supreme Head of the Church and break away from Catholic Rome.

Never mind the religious aspects of his campaign, or his desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon – the king wants to take control of the riches hidden away in England’s mighty churches and monasteries.

Thomas Cromwell has sent commissioners across the country to take stock of each monastery, but at one of them, on the remote Sussex coast, his commission has been decapitated.

Enter Matthew Shardlake, a London lawyer and long-time supporter of Reform, whose investigations changes in life entirely as he not slips further into danger, but questioning everything he believes.

David Knights