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
'One of the virtues of historical crime fiction, that Sansom demonstrates exceptionally well, is the deployment of what seem to be contemporary `noirish' horrors- madness, sexual deviance, corruption, serial killing -within a particular past context...' --History Today
'Heartstone like its predecessors, bristles with outlandish deaths, jeopardy and fiendish plots as it plunges into upheaval caused by the King's foreign policy. Heartstone is a tour de force of period re-creation and shows its author's flair for hoodwinking event the most hawk-eyed reader while devices borrowed from Tudor theatre deepen the mystery...' --Sunday Times Culture, Peter Kemp
'The narrative is complex and ever-twisting and contains some wonderful large-scale scenes...As with his previous books, while the authentic and detailed background is impressive and wholly convincing it is the rich characterisation that is the core of Heartstone...I look forward with impatience to the next adventure.' --Historical Novel Review, Gordon O' Sullivan
`A virtuoso twisting together of Tudor history and murder mystery that bristles with skulduggery, suspicious behaviour and sinister deaths as Henry VIII faces imminent invasion by the French in 1545.'
--Sunday Times Culture Summer Reading
`The hunchback lawyer once again tackles dastardly opponents, ingenious plots and the dangers of Tudor bureaucracy in a masterly amalgam of history and mystery. An engrossing holiday read.' --The Tablet