|Plot Summary of Dissolution|
C. J. Sansom
Viking, May 2003, 24.95, 390 pp.
King Henry VIII selects Thomas Cromwell to destroy the Roman Church through newly enacted laws, phony trials, and informers in every walk of life. Cromwell performs his assignment with zeal, but also worries about a revolt from the oppressed Papists and others opposed to the newly formed Church of England.
In 1537 Cromwell learns that someone murdered one of his agents Commissioner Singleton while on the King' s business at the Monastery of St. Donatus the Ascendant of Scarnsea. He enlists lawyer Matthew Shardlake to investigate. Known in the court system for his hunchback, Shardlake and his clerk travel to the Benedictine cloister to make inquiries amongst close-mouthed individuals filled with animosity towards the outsiders. The sleuths find a hotbed of sexual depravity and treasonous acts, but worse to Shardlake, he obtains damaging information about his employer that places Cromwell bad light. Still he must stop a serial killer from murdering again.
Using historical facts and real persona from the period of “Dissolution of the English Monasteries” (1536-1540), C.J. Sansom provides readers with a vivid Tudor historical mystery. The background is so descriptive it overwhelms the prime theme of a well-written who-done-it in spite of interweaving tidbits into the plot. Shardlake is the glue as he refuses to allow his handicap back from keeping him from performing his duties but struggles with his values once he learns the truth about his mentor. Cromwell is cleverly drawn as a Machiavellian type by using authentic references to his recorded actions. Fans of historical mysteries with an emphasis on the era will appreciate DISSOLUTION.
Harriet Klausner, Resident Scholar
|"King Henry VIII of England solved his marital and financial problems by making himself head of the Church. But he threw his country into chaos. The seats of learning and privilege, the monasteries, had to be dissolved as a result. Commissioner Robin Singleton was sent by Lord Thomas Cromwell to investigate stories of lechery and illegal land sales at the Monastery at Scarnsea. He was murdered for his trouble; a bloody beheading. Hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake was chosen to find out what happened quickly and secretly before the scandal got to the King's ears.
Matthew found plenty of evidence of lack of obedience to the Benedictine rule and soft and lecherous living. He ruled out the simpler monks and servants as being responsible for the killing and concentrated on the senior monks; since the sword was a gentleman's weapon. Young Simon Whelplay, weak and ill and badly treated by the Prior, had a story to tell, but was murdered before he could report.
The missing sword was found in the marsh together with the body of a young woman servant who was thought to have run away with two golden chalices. Matthew returned to London to find out who the owner of the sword had been."
Ray Audrey, Resident Scholar
|Review Analysis of Dissolution|
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Ratings are on a 1-10 scale (Low to High)
Composition of Book
descript. of violence and chases - 10%
Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives - 20%
Feelings, relationships, character bio/development - 20%
How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) - 50%
Tone of story
- suspenseful (sophisticated fear)
How difficult to spot villain?
- Very difficult--no foreshadowing/clues
Time/era of story:
- middle ages
What % of story relates directly
to the mystery, not the subplot?
Kind of investigator
- skilled citizen investigator
Kid or adult book?
- Adult or Young Adult Book
Any non-mystery subplot?
- life in that culture
Murder Mystery (killer unknown)
- government investigator
- a lawyer creature
Accounts of torture and death?
- generic/vague references to death/punishment
- moderately detailed references to deaths
Amount of dialog
- significantly more dialog than descript
- roughly even amounts of descript and dialog
Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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