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Heartstone (The Shardlake Series Book 5) by [Sansom, C. J.]
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Heartstone (The Shardlake Series Book 5) Kindle Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 947 customer reviews

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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


'Readers of C J Sansom will know exactly what to expect here, and all the usual pleasures afforded by this massively talented writer are satisfyingly on offer.' --Burton Mail

'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

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3400 KB
  • Print Length: 753 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Open market ed edition (3 Sept. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003XREHV0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 947 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,669 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I admit it. I'm a total sucker for historical fiction - and absolutely adore all the books of C J Sansom. I've reviewed a few from the Matthew Shardlake series before (e.g. Revelation, Dark Fire and Dissolution) so i eagerly opened my copy of the 5th in the series: Heartstone. I only hope that there are more...

What makes them such page-turners? Well for a start, they have the pace of a good detective mystery. Shardlake is a superb creation. Amateur sleuth and stubborn, hunchbacked London barrister, he takes on the sorts of injustices from which the 'great and good' walk by on the other side... or even perpetrate. He's a valiant-for-truth and a protector of the weak, in large part because he is one of society's marginalised himself despite his mind. We're frequently reminded that 'hunchbacks bring bad luck'. Is there a subtle allusion to the Tudor propaganda against Richard III here as the hunchback, I wonder? (To see what I'm getting at, check out Josephine Tey's masterly The Daughter Of Time.) Sansom's sublime skill, however, (as I've noted before) is his ability to weave genuine plot-twists and cliff-hangers into the meandering events of genuine Tudor history. For not only is Sansom a trained lawyer, he is also a PhD historian. When combined with story-telling abilities, this is a potent combination.

In Heartstone, we're in the last few years on Henry VIII's reign, following on a few years after previous books (which, incidentally, all get nods by Shardlake on p296). He's engaged in his 3rd campaign against France (as disastrous and pointless as the previous ones), but is now married to Catherine Parr, an old friend of Shardlake.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this fifth of the Shardlake series, time has moved forward a few years. Catherine Parr is Queen and Henry VIII is involved in a disastrous naval campaign against the French. There is a mixture of old friends, new characters and historical figures. The plot interweaves three strands, all concerning the exploitation of young women who find themselved abused and powerless in Tudor society. Matthew Shardlake shows himself sensitive to their position, in a quite modern way, and he succeeds in improving all their lots without truly liberating any of them. I was a little disappointed that in one case, Emma, this involves a deus ex machina which at least I could not get from the text(no plot spoilers but think shaving).

As we have now learnt to expect, the whole book is soaked in the most wonderful historical colour and detail. Fabulous descriptions of the fleet based in Portsmouth and the Mary Rose. Affecting details of the life and conditions of the everyday soldier. Considerable details of the workings of the legal system and the Court of Wards. My only reservation, reflected in my rating, is that the setting was not a crucial part of the plot and that CJ Sansom has stepped over some boundary into writing an historical work alongside a thriller, resulting in a book over 600 pages long.
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