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Tombland (The Shardlake series) Hardcover – 18 Oct. 2018
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Tudor terror tingles through C. J. Sansom's murder mystery novels . . . With remarkable expertise, sustained over more than 850 pages, Sansom weaves together a wide cast of characters and knits his murder story into a vivid tapestry of little-known historical happenings (Peter Kemp Sunday Times)
Sansom handles his huge cast with aplomb. This is a totally immersive and vividly written tale: compelling reading for history lovers and crime aficionados alike (Laura Wilson Guardian)
Sansom has the trick of writing an enthralling narrative. Like Hilary Mantel, he produces densely textured historical novels that absorb their readers in another time (Andrew Taylor Spectator)
Sansom blends impeccable historical research with a bloody good whodunnit (The Times)
Sansom has the rare knack of bringing the past to life in three dimensions . . . The honest Shardlake shines like a beacon (Daily Telegraph)
Tudor England has never seemed so vibrantly alive and viscerally authentic than in the pages of the extraordinary Matthew Shardlake novels and after a four-year wait, C.J. Sansom’s mild-mannered, middle-aged, hunchback lawyer makes a magnificent return. (Lancashire Evening Post)
Shardlake is a superb creation who gains more substance with each new book . . . A grand historical epic . . . 800 pages in Shardlake's company will always fly by (Stephanie Merritt Observer)
I really don’t think crime writing comes much better than this, and as always with Sansom there is a wealth of enjoyment in his rich storytelling . . . This novel may have been four years in the making but it was well worth the wait. (Nudge)
Few writers can keep readers interested over the length of 866 pages, but C. J. Sansom is one of those . . . Built on substantial research and written with such confidence that the prose is both smooth and colourful, Tombland is a superb achievement (Literary Review)
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England's monarchy is at a crossroads following the death of Henry VIII; the country is bankrupt, the regent prince Edward is being manipulated by various nobles, all of whom are keen to gain power. There's constant plotting and intrigue to discredit individuals, including the young Princess Elizabeth. The political and religious divides are causing uncertainty and deep fear at every level. Currency has been debased, there's growing civil unrest as common land is enclosed by the nobility and people struggle to survive.
Shardlake encounters his old enemy, Richard Rich, who is ever hopeful that he can find an excuse to send him to the Tower again. Shardlake is sent to Norfolk where the death of John Boleyn's wife may bring discredit to the Boleyn's and Lady Elizabeth. Once in Norwich, he meets up with his old friend and assistant, John Barak, and one intrigue after another is uncovered, then the body count starts to rise.
The plotting is complex but utterly believable. It's good to meet up with characters from previous novels; they're all so convincing. But what's really amazing is the historical context in which these books are set. This time it's a peasant revolt known as Kett's Rebellion. I knew nothing about this episode, but with his usual understated panache, Sansom brings events vividly to life. Loyalties are divided, tension builds and I felt like a spectator involved in and watching as evens unfold. There's not a wasted word and even though this is a large book, it's never padded.
Tombland works well as a standalone. Recurring characters are introduced with some background for those unfamiliar with their early stories. The book works well at so many levels. It's a twisted and compelling murder mystery. I find Shardkake an endearing and intelligent protagonist. Even when his moral compass is challenged, he remains balanced and persuasive in his views. Over the series, his character has developed along with his personal relationships with others. Whether it's a former servant, an apothecary, nobility or his friend Barak, each book takes them all a little further on their personal journeys. As historical fiction, Sansom really brings both the period and people to life. The political machinations and duplicity are complex, but again, individuals like Somerset, the Boleyns, the young Elizabeth and her Court feel real and play such a believable part in the story. There's genuine atmosphere and context and plenty of tension.
What a wonderful way to bring history to life. There is no one who writes better about the Tudor period and Tombland is possibly the best of the series...so far. Absolutely captivated from start to finish and I can't recommend this book highly enough.
This starts very well but then gets bogged down in bringing a historical event to life so that the plot thread, such as it is, gets buried in the midst of minutely detailed recreation. It’s this that makes this one not as good as the ones before - I suspect that this is the longest Shardlake novel but it’s the one with by far the thinnest story. So, really, the mixture of good story and evocative historical detail that made the others so good is missing here; SJ Parris, who perhaps started off as a Sansom wannabe, now produces much better novels, and she’s got a new one coming out quite soon...
This is not the case with the last novel, Tombland. Shardlake and his friends get caught up in a rebellion (Mouse Heath) and the novel drags on and on for more than one hundred pages focusing on the just cause of the rebellion.
Needless to say that the murder case investigated gets put on the back burner and the reader is given a history lesson in social justice.
How likely is it, historically speaking, that a high ranking lawyer who is employed by the future Queen Elizabeth 1, would love a peasant rebellion to the point where he would live in a camp for more than six weeks and wholeheartedly behave and adopt 20th century socialist views of social justice?
Also, this is marketed as crime fiction. If I wanted a history of social justice in that age, I would pick up a different book.
I am really disappointed.
I am sure Shardlake fans, like me, will persevere and find much to enjoy, but this isn't a book to win over new converts. Full marks to Sansom the historian for meticulous research (see last 10% of the book) and for bringing Kett's rebellion to a wider audience. Clearly a personal passion, but I feel in this instance the editors have given him rather too much historical licence to the detriment of the story.
Paper-thin murder plot buried under a forest-stripping pulp of irrelevant historical "research".
As Shardlake himself might have said, " I've a hunch my time's up!"
Top international reviews
Do not be discouraged by the 800 pages, for the narrative flows so smootlhly and the events succeed one another in such a gripping way that you will fight hard to put the book down for the night.
It is wonderful to find yourself living among a rebel camp in the English countryside of the 1500's, the descriptions, the characters, the deep and intricate picture of the social and political situation, all this is what Tombland gifts the reader with. And in the middle of all that, yet another plot that will keep you asking questions until the end.
Bravo Mr. Sansom. Thank you very much for giving us such a fantastic novel and I look forward to your next creation!
Wie immer spannend geschrieben und sehr interessant, etwas über die geschichtlichen Zusammenhänge zu erfahren.