If you are already familiar with the Shardlake series you will need no second invitation to acquire this volume, as it is every bit as good as the previous two. However, if you are new to the adventures of Sansom's humane Tudor lawyer then be assured you are in for a treat. Historical whodunits are ten a penny these days, but ones of this quality are much rarer. Sansom's great skill is to evoke the England of Henry VIII so convincingly that you not only see the scenes of that ancient time but also feel them. The smells, spectacles, landscapes, characters and language of the time come truly alive and hence are an integral part of the novel's appeal. Onto this rich canvas, a complex tale of intrigue, betrayal, political rivalry, and murder is expertly woven focussing on real historical events-in this case The Royal Progress of 1541 and attendant conspiracy alongside the troubled reign of Queen Katherine Howard. Every aspect of the plot is related to the issues of the day (the author holds a PhD in History) and the set piece encounters of his fictional characters with the the era's most powerful figures are full of tension and import, consequently one learns much even as the story grips you. Yet this erudition never stifles the plot which is full of incident and moves at a cracking pace: there is none of Umberto Eco's intellectual showboating or Ellis Peters' genteel scene setting here: this is the sixteenth century in all its vibrancy, stink, and duplicity. It is also worth observing that Sansom writes well, his prose is pleasing and flows effortlessly so that a 600 plus page tome seems shorter than many half its length. In short this is a fine piece of writing which just also happens to be a thriller and one that affords the reader that very special pleasure when returning home at the end of a hard day you rub your hands and think `I can continue with Sovereign tonight'. All avid readers will understand what I mean.