Title : HeartstoneAuthor : C.J. SansomPublisher : Viking AdultGenre : Historical fiction/ mysteryPages : 626 (Hardcover)Published : Jan 24, 2011Rating : 4.5/5
Heartstone is the 5th book in C.J.Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series. In it, Sansom’s hunchbacked lawyer hero takes on another intriguing case. The time is of Catherine Parr’s reign on the throne as Consort of Henry VIII. Five other wives having being done away with (marriages either annulled and/or wives beheaded) Queen Catherine is a just but careful woman. Ever loyal to her servants, the Queen has one of her old maids come to her to ask for justice for her son Michael, who has committed suicide in extenuating circumstances. Before his death Michael has accused one Sir Nicholas Hobbey of grievous wrongs against one of his (Michael’s) former pupils Hugh Curteys. Hugh, after his parents’ death, is now the ward of Sir Hobbey.
After the Queen requests his help in the case, Shardlake journeys to Sir Hobbey’s home Hoyland Priory. Also on Shardlake’s mind is the matter of Ellen Fettiplace, a woman in the Bedlam (insane asylum). Shardlake has befriended Ellen, who looks to be sane, but will not divulge any details on how or why she came to be in the Bedlam. Her traumatic past is a secret which no one around her is willing to reveal, but which, Shardlake is convinced, is the key to setting her free from her fears. As Hoyland Priory is near Rolfswood, Ellen’s native village, Shardlake resolves to find out as much as he can about Ellen’s past.
In his mission, Shardlake is aided by his able assistant and friend Barak And aid he will need, from Barak, and from the Queen, because enemies spring out of the woodwork, trying to dissuade Shardlake from pursuing his quest for the truth.
This is the first book I’ve read of the series, and am happy to report that it can be read stand-alone. This was also my first introduction to Shardlake and the writing of C.J.Sansom and I’m pleased with both. Serjeant
Matthew Shardlake is a very likeable hero. Bent of body but strong of mind, Shardlake will go to great lengths to see justice done. His resolve will be tested severely though when he is faced with open hostility and physical harm from his powerful enemies.
Sansom has great skill of description and detail, and weaves together an intricate and engrossing mystery. The book deals with an expansive canvas but Sansom writes so beautifully that the story progresses fluidly – a near-perfect mix of drama, action and characterization. Set as it is in Tudor times, Sansom succeeds in depicting the historical setting with believable detail, something which adds greatly to the pleasure of the book.
A first rate mystery novel with an astounding twist to the tale, “Heartstone” is a must-read for all lovers of historical fiction and mystery. Though this is a large book, 626 pages of small font (Hardcover), it is well worth the time. I didn’t notice the pages fly by, and I’m hoping you won’t either.