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355 of 377 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shardlake back in action - but radical religion is the problem at every turn
Having thought that Shardlake hung up his detecting laurels after the traumas of the last book (Sovereign), we thought we had seen the last of him. But his reappearance has got hearts racing and excitement levels raised - because Sansom is undoubtedly a great thriller writer - with an incredible eye for historical detail and nuances to boot. What more could you want in an...
Published on 8 April 2008 by Mark Meynell

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jaded
This is the fourth Shardlake I have read in few months, and it is the least enjoyable. I suspect I am suffering from Shardlake saturation, but I had the distinct feeling that the author is also becoming jaded. The narrative lacks the sparkle of the earlier books, and the story development is run-of-the-mill and predictable. The gruesomeness of the Book of Revelations...
Published on 13 Dec 2010 by Donald Hughes


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355 of 377 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shardlake back in action - but radical religion is the problem at every turn, 8 April 2008
By 
Mark Meynell "quaesitor" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Revelation (The Shardlake Series) (Hardcover)
Having thought that Shardlake hung up his detecting laurels after the traumas of the last book (Sovereign), we thought we had seen the last of him. But his reappearance has got hearts racing and excitement levels raised - because Sansom is undoubtedly a great thriller writer - with an incredible eye for historical detail and nuances to boot. What more could you want in an historical novel. As Colin Dexter said in his review of the earlier books, Sansom makes the past feel like the present.

This book drags Shardlake, Barak & Guy into a grizzly world of a religious fanatic serial killer who is driven by a scary misreading of the Book of Revelation. These three are modern heroes - they are our guides in a world that is at one level so alien from ours (with the twists and turns of religious battles affecting the lives of countless mortals, from London butchers caught selling meat during Lent to the priggish hypocrisy of reformist clergy dominating the lives of their parishioners); and yet as Sansom mentions in his afterword, one which bears uncomfortable resonances in to our era, intimidated as it is by the terrorism and implacable hatred of zealots.

I suppose as someone who is a Christian, and who is equally horrified by the lengths people's principles enable them to go, I am disappointed that there are few sympathetic characters in London's religious world. Perhaps that is accurate. Cranmer is the only one who seems really to draw our empathy in this murky world - forced daily, even hourly, to exist in the tension between principle and pragmatism.

But that is not so much a criticism of the book as an observation - because historical novels tend to say more about the era in which they are written than the period they describe. And that is very much the spirit of the age. It doesn't detract from the book, though. It was gripping as ever - and investigates some serious problems and questions - such as the nature of madness, the cruelties of those in power, the absurdities of a monarch's marital whims causing societal earthquakes. But above all - this is all weaved into a great story. And that is what makes Sansom such a satisfying writer. Let's hope Shardlake returns for more! And that they don't go and ruin it by trying to make a TV series of them all, and thus obliterate all the skillful complexities!
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, educational escapism, 24 April 2008
By 
Cazzandra (Guildford UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Revelation (The Shardlake Series) (Hardcover)
They don't sound like Tudor people and some of their attitudes are very obviously 21st century but the detail is cleverly done and the plots hang together. Sansom is good at creating characters that are believable and fixing the story firmly in the politics of the time; there is no doubt about it, the series is a very entertaining one which has been scrupulously researched. In any case, having studied Tudor literature, I am very certain that if they sounded Tudor the books would be unreadable.

Out of the four novels so far (and I hope there are more) this is probably the most interesting and harrowing. I found `Sovereign' a little thin plotwise but whatever was lacking there is made up for here. This has a strong sense of direction towards the final denouement. I worked out who the serial killer had to be very early on (I'm afraid I've worked out every story so far; I'm irritating like that) so it was amusing to watch Matthew gradually catch up with me but perhaps it was easier for me because he knew by then who the killer is and left sufficient clues - perhaps unconsciously (see how believable it is).

I can recommend the series. Matthew is not a detective who gets things right all the time, he has faults and flaws and a bad temper but it is the fact that he isn't perfect that makes him so appealing and realistic. What is appealing too is that the waifs and strays he picks up along the way are woven into the history. He has developed a better relationship with the horse Genesis who in `Dark Fire' he complains about as having not much of a personality but by `Sovereign' the horse is clearly pleased to see him. By now, Matthew has learned to appreciate his strength and sees him as a friend. Guy too has developed and is gradually becoming a more accepted part of the community.

Matthew doesn't have much luck with women though and I wonder if Sansom will relent and give him a break. The poor guy seems to have very little going for him and as each novel appears he seems to become more and more physically frail. Again, given that each novel has a space of a year or more between them in Matthew's life, this is well captured by Sansom.

I very rarely read novels these days, preferring fact so I'm choosey about what I spend my time on. But I have to say, this is an author I look out for. His books are fun, pure escapism and some history along the way so that even whilst I'm being entertained , I can pick up some facts along the way.

I read the novels in order and I recommend doing that if you want to get the impact of the characterisation but in fact each of the novels stands very well alone and Sansom explains sufficient of his background for a reader to start the series anywhere. Highly recommended.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, clever crime drama., 18 Oct 2008
By 
E. McInnes (Manchester UK) - See all my reviews
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CJ Sansom's series of books set in reformation England capture the mood, fears, sights, smells and society of the time wonderfully. Without devoting pages and pages to descriptions the reader is fully immersed in the world of main character Shardlake. The story itself is subtle, dramatic and intelligent. Reminiscent of Morse stories or those by PD James. I'd recommend this to anyone who is a fan of well written, intelligent crime dramas whether they're a fan of history or not.
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128 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Man's Eternal Folly: the "...corruption of our leaders" Ch 4, 31 Mar 2008
This review is from: Revelation (The Shardlake Series) (Hardcover)
I've only recently discovered the real treasure of being able to immerse oneself in the 16th century world of Matthew Shardlake and what fascinates me about Sansom's magnificent achievement is his evocation of a society which truly senses it is out of control following the destruction of the monasteries during King Henry's reign of greed and terror.
Shardlake and characters like Guy Malton are the beacons of logic and light in a London which still believes in demonic darkness. Yes, this is a cracking character-based murder mystery which could sit comfortably alongside anything written by P.D. James and much of Ruth Rendell but, for me, the real heart of the Sharldlake series (and Revelation certainly doesn't disappoint!) is the writer's ability to dig deep into the dark motives that have always urged men to do what they feel they must in order to gain fulfilment. In relation to the religious fanaticism that pervades Sharlake's time, one is tempted to scoff from our so-called safe position nearly five hundred years on but we know it's not that black and white.
That's a big part of the joy of Sansom's series: we are made aware that life has always been chaotic and that "...our leaders" will always be driven by avarice and self-preservation.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marriage and murder in Tudor England, 8 Aug 2008
By 
L. J. Roberts (Oakland, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Revelation (The Shardlake Series) (Hardcover)
First Sentence: The high chandeliers in the Great Hall of Lincoln's Inn were ablaze with candles, for it was late afternoon when the play began.

Henry VIII has asked to marry Catherine Parr and England is in a time of religious turmoil.

The Dissolution of the monasteries is done but now Henry, and the reformists, are moving back toward Catholic ways, under the King rather than the Pope, at the same time as the rise in Protestantism. An English version of the Bible has been published, but only Churches and the upper class are allowed to read it.

One of lawyer Matthew Shardlake's closest friends has been murdered and his body publicly displayed. Brought before Archbishop Cramer, Matthew learns this is not the first such killing. A serial killer is using versus in the Book of Revelations to carry out his killings.

Sansom brings Tutor England to life and makes us see what a difficult time it was in which to live. He doesn't present the romanticized image, but gives us a look at the dangers of the time from social and religious reforms to poverty to mental illness being labeled possession, without ever slowing down the story or being preachy.

The dialogue is, naturally enough, not of the time, but flavored with a sense of the time. I always learn a lot reading Sansom.

Shardlake is a wonderful character who has grown and improved as a character through the series. He is supported by Barak, for whom Matthew tries to do a bit of marriage counseling, and Guy, a Moor, once a monk, now a doctor.

Sansom is an evocative writer and masterful at combining historical detail with a multilayered story, and suspenseful mystery. I am continually impressed by the quality of Sansom's writing.
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72 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tudor Treat., 29 Mar 2008
By 
Mr. Andrew Francis Gray "Sutherland" (EYE, Suffolk United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Revelation (The Shardlake Series) (Hardcover)
Sansoms complete grasp of the minutaie and wider politico/religious issues that dominated the Tudor period is a delight. It is this knowledge that enables him to create believable and accurate backdrops against which his plot lines are set and proceed. Throughout his four books there is no diminution in the standard of his narrative skills. Although dark his stories are never less than a joy to read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book yet, 19 Mar 2013
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Well, I have been an avid Shardlake reader since November 2012. It was only by chance that I ever read one of the series and I am really pleased I did. Yet again Sansom has written a timeless classic, which will keep you reading way into the night. I honestly could not put this down, the way the picture is set is pure class, I could almost smell the sewers of London. Ive never been into historical books before and having tried others (Mentioning no names) many others are just a way to fill the gaps between shardlakes.

Revelation is edge of your seat, gritty, emotional....just fantastic. Buy the book and read it, you will not regret it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm fairly addicted to Shardlake. CJ Sansom is on a real winner., 19 Jun 2008
By 
Robbie Swale - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Revelation (The Shardlake Series) (Hardcover)
This, the fourth novel concerning Matthew Shardlake, is superb. The characters are more developed (and the longer the series go on, the bigger and more developed the supporting cast becomes). The plot is cleverer and different - here we see Shardlake dealing with a serial killer, and although the politicians are involved this is a different kettle of fish to the rebellions and political plots that our favourite hunch-backed Tudor lawyer has found himself involved in before.

And in my opinion it's for the better - C J Sansom's writing has always been addictive (but not in an obtrusive way) and has always had totally convincing historical contexts (at least to a moderately informed one such as I). But in the past the plots have been slightly predictable - more so the classic whodunit, with a list of suspects and a ticking-clock before some disaster happens or the heroes are knocked off. In a way, that is all still true of this book (in fact, maybe it's impossible to write a whodunit without that!) but its better concealed amidst an excellent premise.

The pages and chapters fly by, and this opens an exciting future for Shardlake. I hope it won't be too long till we hear from him again!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another success for Sansom and Shardlake, 29 July 2011
By 
Petra Bryce "bookworm" (Malvern, Worcs) - See all my reviews
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Amongst a background of escalating religious extremism, Shardlake has taken on the case of Adam Kite, a teenage boy suffering from religious mania who has been placed in the Bedlam insane asylum. Whilst investigating the murder of his friend and fellow lawyer Roger Elliard, Shardlake, along with his assistant Jack Barak and his physician friend Guy Malton, crosses paths with that of a serial killer intent on bringing about the apocalypse.

As ever, Sansom's depiction of Tudor London is in a class of its own, the setting vivid and rich in detail, especially the descriptions of ever increasing religious strife and persecution, the suspicion and distrust that are once again pervading society at all levels, with neighbours informing on each other in a climate of fear. This is interspersed with musings on the nature of madness, with superstitious Tudor society offering up demonic possession as its most likely cause. Consequently the plot takes somewhat of a back seat, at first ambling along, then speeding up with the serial killer enacting the seven vials from the Book of Revelation with his victims in rapid succession. In my opinion it is stretching credibility just a bit too far to have Shardlake strike lucky with his shortlist of names of potential suspects when there could have been dozens of others who had migrated to London in the aftermath of the dissolution. As the body count rises and the nature of the murders becomes ever more grisly and violent, unfortunately it appeared to me that this could have been a book about any other deranged serial killer justifying their terrible deeds with religion, with echoes of Boris Starling's Messiah and David Fincher's bleak film Se7en, the Tudor setting almost incidental (the final prospective murder victim excepted). Towards the end, Guy and Shardlake are discussing the mind-set of religious fanatics, trying to understand their motivation; in his Historical Notes Sansom draws parallels with the Christian fundamentalists of Tudor times and the present, showing that parts of history are still very much relevant today, with the recent tragedy in Norway highlighting that humankind has not progressed at all since mediaeval times in that respect. To me that is the best kind of historical fiction there is.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The smell of Tudor England, 21 Oct 2010
We all know that life in England four hundred and fifty years ago was a somewhat different experience to ours today but we generally choose not to dwell on the seemier sides of that existence. C.J Sansom, however, makes sure we understand only too well that sewage management was a luxury few could enjoy, life on London's streets was an unwashed affair and clothes literally hung on backs until they rotted and fell away. Beyond that the wealth divide was enormous, street crime endemic and it is surprising that any sort of social order was possible at all.

In amongst all that, the embryo of a caring society is embodied in Matthew Shardlake, Sergeant Matthew Shardlake now since his promotion to the Court of Requests, liberally referred to as "crookback" by those around him who occupy a yet higher social position and are therefore able to insult their inferiors. Matthew is our guide to Tudor life and principal investigator, reluctantly, on behalf of Archbishop Cranmer, of a series of brutal murders that threaten the King's pursuance of a possible sixth wife, Lady Catherine Parr.

Matthew is again ably abetted by his sidekick Barak who, like Matthew, is late of Cromwell's coterie but unlike Matthew is more street than court. Meanwhile, Matthew once more finds himself in his least favourite circumstances, those of the Royal hinterland where politics and one-upmanship are rife and he has to use all his mental agility just to retain his position.

Revelation is a credible tale based around the religious extremism of the times, something we are out of touch with in today's secular society but which was literally a matter of life and death then. There is one masterful moment when Cranmer ponders the horrific experience of one murder victim who is burnt alive when he, himself, has sent many to such a fate. Oh such is the anguish of high office.

At it's core this murder-mystery is soundly crafted and the cast of characters broad and well-painted, so that we are given ample opportunity to exercise our own sleuthing credentials. Alongside this, the day-to-day development of our principal characters and their lives, Matthew and Barak, once again delivers a parallel what-happens-next story-line that keeps us turning the page.

Revelation is pacy and evocative and, picking just one aspect that makes me glad I'm alive in today's times, I will never take the drainage system for granted, ever again.
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Revelation (The Shardlake Series)
Revelation (The Shardlake Series) by C. J. Sansom (Hardcover - 4 April 2008)
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