The sixth in the series of historical thrillers featuring the lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Barak. Many of the characters are familiar from earlier books, including Guy the apothecary, Richard Rich, Lady Latimer (now Catherine Parr) and Thomas Seymour.
The queen is desperate for the assistance of those she can trust. The king’s health is failing and he is growing increasingly paranoid. Whispers in the ear of the king can cause him to act impetuously. An act of secrecy or the suspicion of disloyalty can lead to accusations of treason, even if you are the woman he loves and even more so for those who seek to help her. Political manoeuvring, the forming and reforming of allegiances and double-crossing abound. Sansom conjures up the atmosphere of fear and despair behind the grandeur of court life where family honour and upholding the religious traditions are more important than the fate of an individual.
Henry’s ambitions in Europe are bankrupting the country and religious practice is again uncertain as the king looks towards Rome. For those at court, and the ordinary people, the need to follow, and be seen to follow, the religious practices acceptable to the king is paramount.
A gripping read although being a large book it is not so easy to read lying down! All the signs are that, although Matthew is ageing, the lawyer could have a role supporting the king’s successor and this may not be the last in the series of Shardlake books.