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Dissolution by C. J. Sansom

Dissolution (2003)

by C. J. Sansom

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Matthew Shardlake (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,3101642,507 (3.92)528
  1. 141
    The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: Both feature ghastly murders in a monastery in a time of religious conflict and turmoil. The Name of the Rose (medieval Italy) is more philosophical, while Dissolution (Tudor England) is more of a straight-forward historical mystery. Both offer interesting insights into the political and religious issues of the times.… (more)
  2. 80
    Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Both these series are excellent mysteries set in well-drawn medieval England.
  3. 60
    An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (Louve_de_mer)
  4. 10
    Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (SHBR123)
  5. 00
    A Conspiracy of Violence by Susanna Gregory (Riyale)
  6. 00
    Pardonnez nos offenses by Romain Sardou (Louve_de_mer)
  7. 00
    L'Eclat de Dieu : Ou Le Roman du Temps by Romain Sardou (Louve_de_mer)

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» See also 528 mentions

English (155)  Dutch (4)  French (3)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (164)
Showing 1-5 of 155 (next | show all)
A mystery set in 1537 in a monastery threatened with dissolution, but which has been undergoing it's internal dissolution and concerning the commissioner sent to investigate the murder of his predecessor, who finds contribute to the dissolution of his own self-deceptions. A mostly well told, competent mystery, it does drag a bit in the middle. ( )
  quondame | Apr 10, 2019 |
Oh my goodness why have I taken so long to read the Shardlake series by CJ Sansom? I was absolutely gripped by ‘Dissolution’, first in this Tudor series of mysteries featuring Matthew Shardlake, commissioner for Thomas Cromwell. And now I want to read all the others.
It is 1537. Henry VIII is king and supreme head of the Church of England. A year has passed since Anne Boleyn was beheaded and her successor as queen, Jane Seymour, has just died following childbirth. Cromwell’s team of investigators, or commissioners, are reviewing every monastery across the land. The dissolution of these institutions is expected as Catholic worship is reformed and anglicised. Lawyer Shardlake is sent by Cromwell to the monastery of Scarnsea on the Sussex coast where the investigating commissioner Robin Singleton has been murdered. Cromwell wants a quick solution to the murder so he can tell the king the problem and solution at the same time, and so puts pressure on Shardlake to find the murderer within days.
Shardlake is a great central character; a hunchback, as a boy he turned to his studies when sports and girls seemed impossible. ‘My disability had come upon me when I was three, I began to stoop forward and to the right, and no brace could correct it. By the age of five I was a true hunchback, as I have remained to this day.’ At Scarnsea, Shardlake needs all his bravery and perseverance to unravel Singleton’s murder. There is only one person he can trust, his servant Mark Poer. Everyone else is a suspect. Sansom twists a variety of motives to make every person at Scarnsea a potential murderer and as the story is told totally from Shardlake’s viewpoint, we must consider each piece of new evidence with him. Everyone at the monastery knows their way of life is threatened and some monks fear the changes. But there have been sexual misdeeds in the past, drinking, gambling and, Shardlake comes to suspect, financial fraud too.
When the snow falls, Scarnsea is cut off from the outside world. Shardlake’s investigation is systematic, interviewing monks, examining correspondence, visiting the crime scene, checking financial records, considering potential scenarios. There is a creepiness about the monastery which made me shiver as Shardlake shivered, and not not just from the extreme cold. Threat is ever present, made gloomier by the adjacent marshes.
‘Dissolution’ is a terrific book. The historical setting and details are authentic; Shardlake is a compelling protagonist, caught as he is between light and shade, between what he wants to do and what he knows he should do; and the murderer is not obvious.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Feb 24, 2019 |
How men fear the chaos of the world, I thought, and the yawning eternity hereafter. So we build patterns to explain its terrible mysteries and reassure ourselves we are safe in this world and beyond.

There was a germ of something remarkable in this genre novel. Double cursed with the blights of "historical" and "detective" baggage, Dissolution betrays yet another misfortune as it flies headlong into the pillars of its territory: The Name of the Rose meets Man For All Seasons as remixed by DJ Spooky and Iain Sinclair. Despite almost audible machinations of the plot, there is a palpable process of character development. I was initially put off by protagonist Shardake but eventually felt his construction needed both his deformity and the arrogance of station as Commissioner, how else would he come to terms with the Terror from the Throne? There is a sober meditation on alienation within these pages. Are there surges of anachorism? Tempering those escapes remains a challeneg but for the most alterof wardens. Sansom does allow a iew of the English Reformation in the making. The destruction of the monasteries strikes the modern reader as being eternally cynical but what isn't in the sidelong view of Progress?
( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
More historical novel than mystery, this Shardlake novel immersed me in the time and turmoil of Cromwell’s dissolution of an ancient medieval monastery.

I enjoyed it, although I can see that the character of the protagonist may not appeal to all. ( )
  yhgail | Feb 20, 2019 |
3 1/2 stars: Good

From the back cover: The year is 1537 and England is divided between those faithful to the Catholic church and those loyal to the king and the newly established Church of England. When a royal commissioner is murdered in the monastery of Scarnsea on the south east coast of England, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's feared vicar general, summons fellow reformer Matthew Shardlake to lead the inquiry. Shardlake and his young protege, Mark Poer, uncover evidence of sexual misconduct, embezzlement, and treason, but when two other murders are committed, they must move quickly to prevent the killer from striking again.


I enjoyed this mystery quite well... the the point that I skipped to the end to read whodunnit. And like many great Agatha Christie's, there are actual multiple mysteries going on with multiple solutions within. Still, I did not expect the final denoument, particularly the telling of Mark Poer's story. Well done. Definitely checking out more of this author; I have the next two in the series.

"Why do you call yourself old and ugly, sir?"
"I am approaching 40, Alive, and I have always been told I'm ugly."
"It is not so, sir. Why only yesterday Brother Guy remarked how your features have a rare combination of refinement and sadness." ( )
  PokPok | Dec 21, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 155 (next | show all)
A well-written historical mystery, unique for both its characters and setting. A definite winner for fans of historical mystery.

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sansom, C. J.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Balducci, GiuliaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lesser, AntonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the writer's group:

Jan, Luke, Mary, Mike B, Mike H, Roz, William

and especially Tony, our inspiration. The crucible.

And to Caroline
First words
I was down in Surrey, on business for Lord Cromwell's office, when the summons came.
You untangle a knot with slow teasing, not sharp pulling, and believe me we have here a knot such as I have never seen.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Haiku summary
Matthew Shardlake, a
Lawyer, investigates crimes in
Tudor monastery.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142004308, Paperback)

Exciting and elegantly written, Dissolution is an utterly compelling first novel and a riveting portrayal of Tudor England. The year is 1537, and the country is divided between those faithful to the Catholic Church and those loyal to the king and the newly established Church of England. When a royal commissioner is brutally murdered in a monastery on the south coast of England, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s feared vicar general, summons fellow reformer Matthew Shardlake to lead the inquiry. Shardlake and his young protégé uncover evidence of sexual misconduct, embezzlement, and treason, and when two other murders are revealed, they must move quickly to prevent the killer from striking again.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:30 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Having worked to establish laws that protect the interests of the crown in 1537, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's feared vicar-general, enlists fellow reformer and lawyer Matthew Shardlake to investigate a commissioner's murder, which may be tied to an impending rebellion.… (more)

» see all 12 descriptions

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An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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