Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Heartstone by C. J. Sansom

Heartstone is the latest novel in the Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery series by C.J.Sansom. 

I was so eager to read it that I didn't wait for the e-book edition and sprang for the hard copy--all 640 pages of it!

The series, which starts with Dissolution, is set in the England of King Henry VIII. Our hero, Matthew Shardlake, is a hunchbaked lawyer in London with a passion for uncovering the truth wherever it takes him and a penchant for finding trouble without half-trying.

Heartstone is set in the waning days of King Henry's reign as the French fleet threatens the English coast. Shardlake is asked by Queen Catherine (the one who survived Henry) to take the case of one of her servants whose son warned of a "monstrous wrong" being done to one of the King's wards who he had tutored just before committing suicide. As Shardlake begins his work, he decides to couple it with an investigation into the mystery surrounding Ellen Pettiplace, an inmate of The Bedlam, whom he befriended in the previous mystery (Revelation)  in the series as he travels to the area where the ward lives and also where Ellen was born. Shardlake's old nemesis, Sir Richard Rich, surfaces to threaten him again in the process.

Sansom weaves these two mysteries into a compelling tale that reveals the corruption of the wardship system of the day against the backdrop of the King's disastrous invasion of France and its aftermath for England. The events leading up to the  tragic sinking of the King's ship, the Mary Rose, in the Solent provide the exciting and unexpected conclusion to the story.

Sansom is a master of historical fiction. Like the other novels in this series, Heartstone is meticulously researched, well-plotted, satisfying and exciting to read. Matthew Shardlake, as well as the other continuing characters in the series, is both a sympathetic and a complex character who continues to evolve in his spiritual and personal life. I'm praying that Sansom will continue the series into the reign of Edward VI since Shardlake is in his forties in this book. Pretty please????

I loved it, achy wrists notwithstanding!