Revelation

I raved elsewhere about the Shardlake novels of C. J. Sansom and was looking forward to a weekend of bliss when his latest Revelation appeared on my desk on Friday afternoon. 545 pages later, on Sunday evening I closed the book with sadness.

Partly this is due to knowing that it will be another year or so before there will be another epic, but also because there was the faintest sense of disappointment. Only the merest hint mind you. For the first time I guessed the killer.

Yet these novels are superb even without the whodunnit element. They recapture the smells, poverty and dangers of Tudor England and in particular London, in a way that many others try but fail miserably. Sansom knows how to make even the most minor of figures memorable and whether it’s a doomed Sussex monastery, a rebellious York or London at the time of Thomas Cromwell’s fall, he brings the 16th century settings alive in vivid detail whilst making them strangely familiar to the reader. If anything the portrayal is too good, making Tudor times the least appealing of places to visit when that time machine finally gets invented.

In Revelation, the hunchback lawyer (assisted by the ex-monk Guy and Shardlake’s capable and ruthless assistant Barak) tries to track down a serial killer. Unfortunately, there are ties to Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s latest squeeze which makes his investigations both complicated and dangerous, bringing him into contact with men of power as well as the poorest of beggars.

Sansom’s books are that rarest of things: crime novels that can tolerate re-reading

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