SOVEREIGN (Historical-England-1541) – VG Sansom, C.J. – 3rd in series
Macmillan, 2006-Hardcover

Lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak are sent to York to ensure the welfare of a prisoner being returned to London for interrogation. Matthew is also to assist with processing legal partitions King Henry VIII during the King’s Progress to York. When local glazier is killed, Matthew and Jack uncover a locked box containing several papers, including a genealogical chart. Before Matthew has a chance to review all the papers, he is attacked and the box taken. Other attacks follow and Matthew must uncover who is behind them and what is the secret that could topple a King’s throne.

Sansom has a talent of writing both a very good, suspenseful mystery while involving the reader in the life and politics of the time. Rather than portraying a romantic view of historic England, Sansom conveys the harshness of living conditions, the brutality of the justice of the time and the unrest and uncertainty due to Henry’s striving for an heir and causing the religious division of the time. Matthew is a wonderful character with a strong belief in doing what’s right, he’s nicely offset by Barak greater willingness to bend the rules. Matthew is also a very human character who can be stubborn, petty and jealous. Although the dialogue is a bit awkward at times as it is strictly neither period nor modern, only a couple times did I find that distracting. This is a series I read in order, but if you enjoy history brought to life, I highly recommend Sansom.

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