15 May 2009


Revelation By C. J. Sansom

Spring 1543.

King Henry VIII is wooing Lady Catherine Parr, whom he wants for his sixth wife. But this time the object of his affection is resisting. Archbishop Cranmer and the embattled Protestant faction at court are watching keenly, for Lady Catherine is known to share their reformist sympathies.

Matthew Shardlake, meanwhile, is working on the case of a teenage boy, a religious maniac who has been placed by the King's council in the Bedlam hospital for the insane. Should he be released as his parents want, when his terrifying actions could lead to him being burned as a heretic?

When an old friend is horrifically murdered, Shardlake promises his widow, for whom he has long had complicated feelings, to bring his killer to justice. His search leads him to connections not only with the boy in Bedlam but with Cranmer and Catherine Parr- and with the dark prophecies of the book of Revelation.

As London's Bishop Bonner prepares a purge of Protestants, Shardlake, together with his assistant Jack Barak and his friend Guy Malton, follows the trail of a series of horrific murders that shake them all to the core, and which are already igniting frenzied talk of witchcraft and demonic possession.

For what else would the Tudor mind make of a serial killer....?

The fourth instalment in the Matthew Shardlake series and every bit as impressive as the first three, for me perhaps even more so as this book sees the reintroduction of Guy Malton who was only briefly mentioned in the last. It is through Guy, now a physician but once a Benedictine monk, originally from Spain and with Muslim forebears (he is often referred to as the Old Moor), that we get to explore the advances, or otherwise, of medicine as practiced at the time - fascinating but often quite gory stuff. The passages involving the teeth-puller certainly made me grateful for modern dentistry.

Set in the 1500's, when "To live in London since the monasteries were dissolved was to be inured of pitiful scenes everywhere. Most people simply looked away, made the sufferers invisible. Many beggars were former monastic servants, others poor folks who had come in from the countryside where much land was being enclosed to pasture sheep, their villages demolished, and the sick who had once been able to find at least temporary shelter at the monastic hospitals now lay in the streets and often died there", Revelation is a real page" turner" of a novel ,with so many plot twists , it had me riveted from start to finish.

So much more then just a historical whodunit, we get to explore so many issues in a time when many changes were occurring, Revelation is also, amongst many other things, a study of relationships - friendship, unrequited love, love gone wrong, the unconditional love of parents for their son are all looked at as, of course, are other more negative relationships that are largely based on the fear, prejudice and ignorance of the times. In a word - Brilliant, I can hardly wait for the next instalment.

No comments: