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Dissolution [Paperback]

C. J. Sansom
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DISSOLUTION in the Reformation June 7 2010
DISSOLUTION, C.J. Sansom, Viking, 2003, pp.390

This excellent novel takes place in 1536 England in the middle of the Reformation. King Henry VIII has just executed Anne Boleyn, his wife, and the supposed young lover who becomes the unwitting raison d'être of the story. The Vicar General, Thomas Cromwell, assigns Mathew Shardlake the task of uncovering the murder of a commissioner sent to St. Donatus Monastery. The Reformers wanted all the monasteries dissolved but rather than the former methods of brutal force, wanted the abbots to surrender them over peacefully.
The monasteries were loyal to Rome (papists), the lives of the monks had deteriorated far beyond their original austere rule and in fact were filled with scandal. Though they had reluctantly agreed to the new set of Cromwell rules, many surreptitiously carried on as before. Things such as: praying before a statue; latin in prayers; offerings made to relics; use of candles and the most irritating ' belief in purgatory ' were all now anathema. Sansom dwells often on the issue of purgatory delving into both sides of the argument. Cromwell's true purpose in dissolution was to increase the King's treasury and the acquisition of monastery lands and wealth. This was no hidden fact. The abuse revolving around dissolution was even more scandalizing than the monks behaviour.
The above is the current atmosphere into which Shardlake must find a killer and complete the job of surrendering. Sansom is adept at casting suspicions on each character and into deepening the plot. Just when things are close to be solved, he complicates the solution with another mystery or disaster. Shardlake ends up investigating more than one murder and is also in danger himself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder in the monastery June 13 2004
Since Ellis Peters' passing, I didn't expect to read any new good murder mysteries set in English monasteries. Thankfully, I was wrong, as I thoroughly enjoyed this work by a new author. This book takes place centuries after Brother Cadfael's time, when the British monasteries were falling into the corrupt lifestyle of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church. Of course, Henry VIII's dispute over his wished for divorce sped things along, and the new officials who arose in their master's wake were for Reform, and wished to close the monasteries, as symbols of the "papist" devils. Our intrepid hero goes to a large monastery on the coast to strong arm the abbott into surrendering his monastery to the crown, after his predecessor was murdered there. The plot deepens when two other murders occur, and our hero and his assistant must work diligently to discover "whodunnit", from a list of several likely suspects. There are religious discussions, traces of disillusionment in some of the characters, and all in all quite an exciting tale from beginning to end. I look forward quite eagerly to further books from this author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting historical novel May 6 2003
The novel centers on murders at a monastery of the south coast
of England in 1537. Henry VIII is head of the Church in England,
and is taking over ("dissolving") much of the property and wealth
of the Catholic Church. Thomas Cromwell (the Vicar General of
England) sends Matthew Shardlake to Scarnsea to investigate the
murder of Cromwell's previous emissary Shardlake, who is a
hunchback, also must look into other murders as well at the
The primary interest here is in the historical period, and the
view of political and religious matters. Anne Boleyn's beheading
occurred in 1536 on trumped-up charges of adultery, and Thomas
More was beheaded in 1535 for refusing to acknowledge the
religious primacy of Henry. Many Catholic clergy went to the
scaffold; others were racked until they renounced their faith in
favor of Henry. The novel presents a good glimpse of life in
this time of transition.
As a mystery, this is not Agatha Christie; as a look at religious
matters, this is not The Name of the Rose. The characters do not
have a richness of depth, and the overall writing is good, but
not lyrical. Read it as a good historical novel, not as a great
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating historical mystery debut Feb. 24 2004
By Larry
In the winter of 1537, lawyer Matthew Shardlake is asked to look into the brutal murder of a commissioner of Thomas Cromwell, the vicar general of King Henry VIII at a monastery on the south coast of Britain. The much feared Cromwell demands that Shardlake get results immediately so Cromwell will have everything wrapped up when he tells the king about the incident. He sends Shardlake as his representative to solve the crime. This is in the midst of the dissolutions of the Catholic monasteries throughout the realm as presided over by Cromwell. Shardlake, a hunchback travels the treacherous roads with his aide, Mark Poer, from London to the remote monastery. The suspects include many of the monks residing there. Things get especially tense as the deaths continue even after Shardlake arrives.
There is a wealth of detail in this well written debut which, alone, makes this work noteworthy. Sansom succeeds in bringing this time and place of almost five hundred years ago to the reader with a rare sense of immediacy. In fact, it is the fascinating detail that keeps the pages turning. The mystery itself is cleverly presented and the solution quite adequate. Pacing is the casualty of the meticulous attention to detail. Characters appear realistic, yet, it is difficult to distinguish one monk from another. A glossary in the front helps. Historical mysteries can be extremely difficult to write especially by a first time novelist who handles the task adeptly. A worthy nominee in two Crime Writers Association categories.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving. A very compelling look at the dissolution of ...
Moving. A very compelling look at the dissolution of the monasteries in England. And at the state of religion during Henry VIII.
Published 2 months ago by Mr Donald D Wachenschwanz
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric
Book 1, in the Matthew Shardlake series

Set in the 16th century during the dissolution of the monasteries. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Toni Osborne
4.0 out of 5 stars great read
Very nice historical fiction. I did not want to put it down. i will read more book of this author.
Nice discovery
Published 6 months ago by Jean-Bernard Trouve
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Series...
Although this is the least strong of the books - interesting time but characters a little confusing. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Sheana Parker
5.0 out of 5 stars The destruction of the British monasteries
This excellent novel takes place in 1536 England in the middle of the Reformation. King Henry IIIV has just executed Anne Bolin, his wife, and the supposed young lover who becomes... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Richard J. Mcisaac
5.0 out of 5 stars Dissolution and Diversity
I picked this book up and couldn't put it down. Not only was I captured by the mystery, the writing and the characters - I was amazed at how Sansom could weave such a diversity of... Read more
Published on March 13 2007 by Dave and Joe
5.0 out of 5 stars very good debut book
this is the debut book by c.j. sansom, which already places him in the elite level of contemporary authors (perez-reverte, eco, et al). his writing style is exquisite. Read more
Published on July 19 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful first novel...
If you want to see just how good this novel of Henry Tudor's time is, also read "Day of Wrath" by Iris Collier. Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Ecclesiastical Thriller
I went into this book (a Christmas gift) with low expectations, expecting only a shabby period thriller. Read more
Published on Jan. 2 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars a treat for British history buffs
This is a great read, especially for knowledgeable fans of Tudor history. I found the characters convincing and well drawn, the mystery well plotted and the writing well paced. Read more
Published on Jan. 1 2004
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