Written by C. J. Sansom
Review by Alice Logsdon

       This gripping mystery is set in Tudor England during the winter of 1557, just after a rebellion against the still-new Church of England has been put down by Henry VIII and his vicar general, Thomas Cromwell. The country is divided. While reform seems to be taking hold, many loyal Catholics remain opposed to the strict new rules and regulations. Cromwell is well under way in his plan to dissolve and destroy all vestiges of Catholicism in England. However, when one of Cromwell’s commissioners is murdered while on assignment at the Scarnsea monastery in southern England, he sends Dr. Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer devoted to reform and a personal friend, to find the murderer post haste, fearing further rebellion and the end to his regime.

      Accompanying Shardlake is his clerk, Mark Poer. Together they begin to question suspects and unravel the tangle of leads that will, they hope, quickly point to the murderer. But after two more murders are discovered, it becomes clear that they could be looking at a longer stay than initially intended. Adding to his stress, during the course of his investigation Shardlake hears startling information, leading him to question his loyalties.

     In his first published effort, Sansom offers up a historical detective novel in language that is moody, expressive, and precise. The plot, which holds together to the end, is fast-paced and satisfying.