zaterdag 11 februari 2017

"Dissolution" by C.J. Sansom

“You untangle a knot with slow teasing, not sharp pulling, and believe me we have here a knot such as I have never seen. But I will unpick it. I will.”

'Dissolution', the title of C.J. Sansom's debut novel, refers to the suppression of the monasteries, a process by which King Henry VIII tried to close down all Catholic monasteries in England. This process was masterminded by the king's chief minister Thomas Cromwell, and this event provides the background for the novel.

Royal Commissioner Robin Singleton was sent to the Scarnsea monastery to investigate stories of illegal land sales, but was brutally murdered during the investigation. Now Cromwell has sent hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake to solve the murder, and at the same time continue Singelton's investigation. Soon, Shardlake discovers that he has arrived in a lair of avarice, corruption and decadence. Many of the monks are hiding something, and it becomes clear that there are a lot of suspects. More deaths follow, and as Shardlake is closing in on the truth, both he and his assistant Mark must also fear for their lives.


A murder in a monastery: it doesn't exactly sound original. And indeed, it is very probable that Sansom was inspired by Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose", though the story takes place a couple of centuries later. It is a very different novel, though. It's a much lighter read (not lighthearted, mind you), but like Eco's novel, it works both as a historical novel and as a murder mystery. The characters are excellently drawn. Matthew Shardlake proves to be an interesting and complex character that is   ideal to carry a series. The actions and motivations of all the characters are convincing. Cromwell, although he only appears very briefly, is a powerful and menacing figure. Apart from a clichéd scene in a clock tower, the ending and the solution to the murders is quite satisfying. An excellent start to a series which I will definitely read more books from.

Author: C.J. Sansom
Title: Dissolution
Publisher: Pan, London
Year: 2015 (orig. 2003)
Number of pages: 463 p.
ISBN: 9781447285830

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