Dissolution is the first book from CJ Sansom in the Matthew Shardlake series, set during the reign of King Henry VIII and his Chief Minister, Thomas Cromwell. The Catholic Church in 1536 is being eradicated in Britain and the Dissolution of the monasteries has begun – by 1540 no monasteries would be left. The tensions in the country are high between those loyal to King Henry and those to the Catholic Church. Cromwell, himself is under scrutiny since his alliance with the now beheaded Ann Boleyn.
Shardlake is summoned to Thomas Cromwell’s office and assigned to investigate the death of one of Cromwell’s agents in St Donatus monastery at Scarnsea. Is the beheading of the agent significant, and is it a message. Shardlake is an intelligent astute lawyer, that unfortunately suffers physical deformity as a hunchback, and he sets off for Scarnsea with his assistant Mark Poer.
The historical nature of the story is fabulous and the attention to detail in dialogue and descriptions provides a wonderful atmosphere to enjoy this historical whodunit. Shardlake is a brilliant central character and he makes this novel intriguing and captivating as he delicately investigates the murder and the life at the monastery. He knows only success will placate Cromwell and the dynamics of the political and religious tensions are palpable.
I would highly recommend this book as a murder mystery, and there is just that feeling that Sansom understands the Tudor period so well that you are tempted to take all the details as fact.