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Heartstone (The Shardlake Series) Hardcover – 3 Sep 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Mantle; Main Market Ed. edition (3 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405092734
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405092739
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (758 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 46,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

C. J. Sansom was educated at Birmingham University, where he took a BA and then a PhD in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he retrained as a solicitor and practised in Sussex, until becoming a full-time writer. He lives in Sussex.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Many writers jostle for position at the top of the historical crime fiction tree, but for many aficionados one novelist has maintained an assured premium position for quite some time: the British writer CJ Sansom. His sprawling, exuberant and brilliantly organised novels featuring the wily hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake are particular favourites of those who seek something a little more ambitious in the field, and it's not hard to see why. Most of Sansom’s novels (which include Dissolution, Sovereign, Dark Fire and Revelation) seem positively operatic in their sheer scale, and the vividness of which Tudor England is covered by the author makes most other writing in the genre seem footling.

At over 600 pages, the new book, Heartstone, is one of his most imposing, but after a challenging, slowish start (something frequently attempted by Sansom -- like many good writers, he often demands a certain patience from his readers), the customary comprehensive grip is rigorously maintained. The invasion of France mounted by Henry VIII has been a disaster, and, in retaliation, an imposing French fleet is making preparations to cross the Channel. At Portsmouth, the English navy is readying itself for the battle of its life, and at Henry's autocratic direction, a massive militia army is being raised. England, reeling under the debasing of its currency to pay for the war, is suffering crippling inflation and economic meltdown. (If the thought of Britain's involvement in controversial foreign wars while suffering an economic crisis might remind the reader of a few contemporary parallels, there is little doubt that is exactly what CJ Sansom intends.) Against this tumultuous backdrop, the lawyer Matthew Shardlake is presented with a difficult case via an elderly servant of Queen Catherine Parr which will plunge him into the labyrinthine toils of the King's Court of Wards. Shardlake’s job is to look into wrongs which have been done to the young ward Hugh Curteys by a Hampshire landowner, and (as is customary with most cases involving Shardlake) violent death is soon on the agenda, as the threat of war lours.

Readers of CJ Sansom will know exactly what to expect here, and all the usual pleasures afforded by this massively talented writer are satisfyingly on offer. If Heartstone is not quite vintage Sansom, that is perhaps because the author has set (and maintained) such a high standard. But what the novel provides in terms of reach and achievement is streets ahead of most of his contemporaries. --Barry Forshaw


`CJ Sansom combines a knack of getting us to experience the past with a talent for warmly memorable characterisation and skilled plot construction. We are as fond of the canny but vulnerable Tudor lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his macho sidekick Barak as we are of Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey and Maturin or Terry Pratchett's Lord Vetinari and Sam Vines...As well as expanding familiar characters, Sansom enjoys literary experiment...Thank goodness for every one of the 600 pages, Sansom's fans will say.'
--The Times - Christina Hardyment

'Sansom's attention to historical detail is rightly praised: he scrupulously avoids the jung-ho military jingoism common in other authors of historical fiction. One wonders if a modern-day version of Shardlake would be a useful man to have around the Pentagon. Yet it is the rich characterisation that really brings this series to life, none more so than Shardlake himself, a beguiling hero with a bent body but a strangely modern mind.' --Financial Times, Robert Orr

'Heartstone, as bristling as its predecessors with outlandish deaths, suspicious behaviour, jeopardy and plots of fiendish deviousness, plunges you into catastrophic upheavals caused by Henry's foreign policy. Throughout, Heartstone is a rousing tour de force of period re-creation, testifying to Samson's fascination with history...Like all the Shardlake books, Heartstone winningly shows Sansom's crafty flair for hoodwinking even the most hawk-eyed reader.' --Sunday Times Culture,Peter Kemp

'A great attraction of CJ Sansom's series of novels set in the reign of Henry VIII lies not merely in the authentic background but in the personality of the main character - that persistent seeker after truth, Matthew Shardlake, Sansom's intelligent hunchbacked Tudor lawyer... Sansom brilliantly exploits the hindsight we bring to the historical novel, for we turn the pages with bated breath, waiting for the inevitable, wondering who will survive. Life aboard the ship, top-heavy, crowded with soldiers and sailors, is rivetingly described. It's a long struggle for Shardlake, but the hill of truth is well worth climbing.' --The Independent, Jane Jakeman

'At once compulsively readable and highly satisfying...Sansom handles a large cast and a complex narrative with great skill and his set piece scenes, the sinking of the Mary Rose, for instance are simply stupendous. An entirely engrossing novel with an intriguing twist.' --Daily Express

'Murder, mystery and turbulent history are expertly twisted together in Sansom's fifth Tudor crime novel.' --Sunday Times 'Culture' Magazine

'Shardlake and Barak are one of the best double acts in historical fiction...If you haven't yet discovered the Shardlake series, you're in for a treat...'
--Lancashire Evening Post

'Murder, mystery and turbulent history are expertly twisted together in Sansom's fifth Tudor crime novel.' --Sunday Times 'Culture' Magazine

'...the pace and tension hot up splendidly as Shardlake's inquiries take him to the Hampshire home of a family with a great deal to hide. A wholly unexpected twist takes us to a superb denouement aboard the doomed warship Mary Rose - terrific stuff, for both fans and newcomers to the series.' --The Guardian

'The best crime fiction depends at least as much on character, atmosphere and sense of place as on plot, and Heartstone is no exception... This is good writing and it should be read.' --The Spectator

'Sansom... is superb at evoking the atmosphere of the time, from the anxiety of the populace about the debased coinage to pay for the king's recklessness, to the very fear that the French threat inspired. The historical detail is finely drawn and, as in the previous books, the voices of the characters strike just the right balance between accessibility for the modern ear and period flavour.' --Eastern Daily Press

'As in many good crime series of whatever epoch, the central character evolves from novel to novel... Shardlake is feeling his age, and the double isolation of his physical disability and his religious disbelief puts him constantly on his guard' --TLS, Ruth Morse

'CJ Sansom's Tudor-set legal thrillers have been an astounding success due to their period detail, careful plotting and deft characterisation... Sansom writes evocatively about Tudor London' --Catholic Herald

'CJ Sansom writes with verve and conviction, drawing the reader into the heat and terror of the summer of 1545.' --The Daily Express

'Sansom's resourcefulness is on display here in all its glory...another lesson in history for all of us.' --Oxford Times

'Sansom is completely in control of his material and paces his yarn perfectly. Sly comments on Henry's unwise expansionist ambitions have modern echoes, but Sansom's own attempts at expansionism need not cause concern - you will speed through this novel like King You-Know-Who devouring a capon.'
--Daily Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

275 of 294 people found the following review helpful By Big Jim TOP 100 REVIEWER on 2 Sept. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Heartstone continues the story of Matthew Shardlake and co, and weaves together at least 3 different strands of plot to reach a satisfying conclusion. There are no major departures from type to be fair but I like the fact that CJ Sansom has chosen once again to move the story out of London and in so doing can further describe the countryside, the town of Portsmouth, and the early days of the navy. There are some engaging characters to be met as well, some more integral to the plot than others, and to be fair some of them are a tad stereotypical, but maybe that's because the stereotypes are true. One thing that does grate though is the use of modern idiom such as "mad as a box of frogs". I know we don't want the dialogue to be all "yea verily" and the like but the use of such idiom does seem a bit incongruous. Of course someone will now tell me that the phrase was first coined in Tudor times in which case I withdraw my complaint.

But seriously, this will please fans of the series, and although new readers could start with this book they would be advised to start at book 1 to see how the relationships develop through the series as that does have some significance in this book.
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118 of 128 people found the following review helpful By J. Cooper on 7 Sept. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Well after the last book `Revelation', I thought we had seen the end of Shardlake and Barak and therefore sadly resigned myself to the fact that there may only ever be four books in this fantastic series. I am sure I do not need to tell you how excited I was to see `Heartstone' advertised earlier on in the year! I could not wait to get my hands on a copy of this book and ensured I was able to buy a copy on its publication date.

The book itself is aesthetically beautiful. The dust jacket, colour maps on front and back covers and the red ribbon have helped to create a book which demands centre stage on your bookshelf. The book is slightly heavy, which can be problematic when reading the book in bed at the end of the day when your aching limbs are succumbing to the effects of gravity! Yet that is the only negative point for a book which definitely stands out from the rest.

Aesthetics aside, the content is typical Shardlake with the story plodding along quite nicely until the final third when revelation after revelation is thrown at our indomitable lawyer in true, plot twisting style! This time Shardlake is away from London and thus the story focuses mainly on his adventures in Hampshire. We have a new setting with a different story, but one which contains just enough familiar elements from the previous book to sustain the flow from `Revelation' into `Heartstone'.

In Heartstone, you will see a slightly different Shardlake and in some ways he appears to be more vulnerable to his enemies. I experienced a greater range of emotions when reading this book than I have done with the previous instalments, which ranged from anger to sorrow, empathy to disgust. All in all, key ingredients for a dangerously addictive read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Suzie on 7 Oct. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have without doubt enjoyed all the books in the series and this 5th Shardlake novel was certainly not a disappointment.I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in the Tudor period, who also likes a good mystery. The book is atmospheric and enables you to imagine how grim and fearful life was for many living in London and elsewhere during Henry's reign. A great way to also learn about the social norms in the 16th century. Having read the earlier books this has given me a good insight into Shardlakes character and a knowledge of his past and indeed the history of others like Barak and Guy. However it is perfectly okay to pick up Heartstone and read this book in isolation. I have found that some authors churn out books but seem to run out of ideas and thus become stale, but not C J Samson and I look forward to the next Shardlake adventure.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Nicholls on 31 July 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm going to make this review as short and succinct as possible, because it's late and the missus is in bed waiting for me (it's not like that trust me) ;). Anyway, that's totally irrelevant. Essentially I am a big fan of the Shanrdlake series, and this was an enjoyable read, certainly not as much worse than the previous installments as some other reviewers would have you believe. It is, however, different.

The book is split into six parts (as I recall) and some of these are better than others. As with all the previous books in Sansom's tudor murder-mystery series, this book takes a while to really get going. Personally I quite enjoy the everyday, descriptive beginning in London, as I have done with the other books, but those looking for immediate action will not be gratified here.

The factors that strike me as most different to the previous books are:

Book layout (6 parts)
Colour maps, better hardback presentation, and multiple maps of greater/lesser detail (if this is of importance)

In regards to the plot, this book, though based on an unusual death, does not have the chain of victims that often occur in the predecessors, and has a lot of other intriguing aspects. The plot is certainly not the best of the series - some characters I really did not feel emotionally connected too, for whatever reason, but other new characters were quite interesting. Obviously the setting is different, and I felt it was described well, though in some areas (such as the ships at Portsmouth) I did not understand all of the details I must admit, despite knowing my galleys and galleasses, I found it hard to picture in my head some particular details and areas of the ships. Those of greater naval/period knowledge will not have this difficulty I'm sure.
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