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Tombland by C.J. Sansom


The seventh book in The Shardlake series, Tombland is set in 1549. It is two years after the death of Henry VII, and the nominal king, Edward VI is only eleven years old, so not old enough to reign yet. Instead his uncle Edward Seymour rules as Protector, but under this rule, England is sliding into chaos as inflation rages and peasants are starving, not helped by the gentry closing off parcels of land for their sheep, previously common land for the people.


As peasant rebellion is brewing about terrible hardship and injustice, our hero of this series, lawyer Matthew Shardlake is working in the service of Henry’s younger daughter, Lady Elizabeth. She asks him to investigate the gruesome murder of a distant Norfolk relation whose husband, John Boleyn, is in prison waiting to stand trial. So Shardlake and his assistant go to Norwich to investigate, and with the help of Shardlake’s former assistant Jack Barak, they discover layers of mystery surrounding the death of Edith Boleyn, and their list of suspects grows as a second murder is committed.


But before they can get to the bottom of this murder, peasant rebellion erupts across the country, led by Robert Kett. Shardlake and his assistants are soon in the midst of one of the biggest rebellions in English history, and Shardlake is forced to decide where his loyalties lie.


C.J. Sansom has a Ph.D. in history, and he also worked as a solicitor before becoming a full-time writer. The level of historical detail in this large tome is impressive, but the author never lets the facts get in the way of a page-turning, engaging read. Tombland is an extraordinary read about a dark period of English history, but also a superb murder-mystery. I especially enjoyed the essay notes at the back of the book that gives more historical detail to the novel - they are a very welcome inclusion to this fine book.


Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Macmillan, RRP $34.99

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