Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Book Review: Revelation, A Matthew Shardlake Mystery

Did you ever purposely delay reading a book because you just knew that you were going to enjoy it so much that you would miss it when you finished it? Or deliberately pace yourself through your reading so you wouldn't finish it too soon?

That's what I did with the latest Matthew Shardlake mystery from C. J. Sansom, Revelation. Revelation is the perfect antidote to the boring bestseller from Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol. I was eager to read it since I loved the previous three books in this series which features a hunchback lawyer who solves murders during the turbulent reign of Henry VIII. I couldn't wait for the Kindle version, so I even ordered the hardback version!

And it sure did not disappoint. This book is set in the last years of Henry's reign as he is courting the widowed Catherine Parr. A serial killer is using Revelation 16, the pouring out of the vial judgments, as his template for vicious and sadistic murders. When Shardlake's dear friend is one of the early victims, he becomes enmeshed in the effort to catch the killer.

One of the compelling aspects of these mysteries is the skillful character development of not only our hero Shardlake, but also of the continuing characters and those who appear only in this novel. Sansom is a master at portraying the changes in English society throughout the reign of Henry VIII, particularly the religious struggles between the reformers and the traditionalists that waxed and waned with the mercurial attitude of the king. A major theme of Revelation is the cost of religious extremism on both sides.

Another theme is the treatment of the mentally ill in Tudor England. Shardlake takes on the representation of a young inmate of Bedlam, whose illness (pathological obsession with his fear of not being among the "elect" because of his sins) threatens to bring charges of heresy upon him and with it the dreadful punishment of being burned at the stake. Sansom explores the medieval understanding of mental illness and ties it to the main murder mystery plot involving the serial killer.

Two thumbs up!

Sansom will have another Shardlake mystery, Heartstone, out in a couple of months. Yippee!


Elaine said...

Will have to give the series a try.

artbymj said...

oooooo, this sounds so good! Would it be a good book for my book club to consider (as in not too long?)Regardless, I want to read it.

Quotidian Grace said...

My copy is 546 pages long--but the print is large.

Definitely worth it! Hard to put down...

zorra said...

You find the coolest books!

Cozy in Texas said...

I found your blog this afternoon. Thanks for the great review, I'm always looking for a new read.

Quotidian Grace said...

Hi, Ann--

Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your comment. I'll add your blog to my reading list.

Mimi said...

Thank you for the recommendation. I love your blog and really enjoyed the book. I love a good series.

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