Written by C. J. Sansom
Review by Marina Oliver

To overawe the rebellious north, Henry VIII makes a grand Progress to York. Travelling ahead are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant, Jack Barak, to help prepare petitions and, at Cranmer’s behest, to ensure that an important conspirator arrives in good health at the Tower for questioning.

A workman is murdered and papers are found which could shake the throne. Shardlake, confronted by personal enemies, threats and constant danger, is determined to seek out the truth. In typical sleuth fashion he has a disability, personal problems, and moral dilemmas he must resolve in order to carry out his instructions.

Meticulously detailed (though the frequent references to ‘lunch’ in the early 16th century struck a jarring note), this novel provides an intriguing glimpse into the lives of people behind the throne and the preparations involved in keeping royal lives running smoothly. The plot is satisfyingly complex, and the people, real and fictional, are portrayed with skill. The background, the private lives of the court and the ordinary people, is brought vividly to life.