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Book Review: Soveriegn by C. J. Sansom

The third in the Matthew Shardlake mysteries set in Tudor England.

Sovereign by C. J. Sansom is the third in the Matthew Shardlake series of mysteries set in Tudor England; I think it’s the best yet (and they were all good).

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In Sovereign Shardlake is sent to York to guard a prisoner and make sure he stays healthy so he can be tortured properly in the Tower of London. Shardlake is driven to such work by debts he owes on his late father’s land; his patron, Archbishop Cranmer, has promised to pay him handsomely for his work. This sort of moral ambiguity is everywhere in Sovereign.

Also travelling north is King Henry VIII and his entourage, in a huge progress (as royal travels are known). This complicates matters enormously, as the progress creates all sorts of obstacles. The King is headed north to quell possible rebellion, for the north is still largely Catholic, and there is great resentment towards the King’s imposition of the new religion.

But then a glazier dies, and things rapidly get complicated. Multiple attempts are made on Shardlake’s life, and he finds himself embroiled in matters at the highest levels, including whether Henry is the rightful King of England. In Tudor England, it was not safe to even be suspected of having such knowledge.

Sovereign succeed magnificently, both as a mystery novel and as historical fiction. Although I am not expert on Tudor England, reviews by those who are convince me he gets the history correct; but more than this, he captures and conveys the mood of the time and place.

Highly recommended.

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