Dissolution – a Novel of Tudor England
Viking Penguin, 2003, 387 PP
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This is a mystery set in Tudor England. King Henry VIII had severed the Church's ties with Rome a few years before and the country is in turmoil as Protestant reformers struggle to impose their version of reform on the Catholic Church in England while the Catholic hierarchy in England struggles to preserve the right to maintain the traditional doctrines and worship. Just beneath the surface is another struggle between the secular and religious leaders over the power and wealth of the monasteries. Politicians, under the leadership of Thomas Cromwell, take up the reformer's cause, not to reform the church, but to get their hands on the lands and other wealth of the monasteries for themselves and to remove the abbots from the House of Lords thereby increasing the power of the secular politicians.
The small monasteries have been dissolved and their monks pensioned off. Now Cromwell has his sights on the large monasteries. But, while conducting an investigation of the Monastery of St. Donatus the Ascendant in the village of Scarnsea, Cromwell's agent, Robin Singleton, is mysteriously beheaded in the kitchen. Cromwell then dispatches Matthew Shardlake, a brilliant young lawyer and idealistic church reformer to St. Donatus with a mission to solve the mystery of the murder of Singleton and get the abbot to agree to sign the papers to dissolve the monastery. Time is of the essence and Cromwell makes it clear he wants both tasks done quickly and quietly.
Shortly after Shardlake's arrival he encounters two more mysterious murders as well as evidence of sexual misconduct, embezzlement and treason. Things become more complicated when Shardlake discovers links back to both the family of the Henry VIII's recently deceased queen, Jane Seymour and Anne Boleyn, Henry's second wife who was beheaded to make room for Jane Seymour.
The review of this Book prepared by Chuck Nugent