I don’t often read crime novels, I’m not sure why, my grandmother used to love them, but I could never generate the necessary enthusiasm for finding out whodunit. Maybe my mind just doesn’t work that way, or I have too much sympathy for the bad guys, either way, I’d have made a terrible detective.
So it’s an unusual choice of novel this week that I write about – C J Sansom’s Sovereign that features her sleuth Matthew Shardlake. I was drawn to it because of the period of history, Tudor England in all its pomp and splendour; a court full of intrigue and danger, the land in a flux of great change and upheaval, yet beginning to erect the pillars of society that we now identify with as forever English.
As this is a crime novel I don’t want to give away the plot by discussing the characters too much, because as with any crime novel, they are key to the storyline. I’ll just say that Shardlake is an interesting and unusual investigator, hunchbacked and often shunned by many of this peers. He is likable, intelligent, and shrewd and without the arrogance often ascribed to the lead detective in novels of this type.
The part of the novel that I found so interesting is the history and events that form a backdrop to the storyline. It centres on Henry VIII’s aggressive foreign policy that stemmed from his desire for England to pack a more powerful punch in world affairs. Instead it provoked a big bear in the form of the French who sent their large navy to put the upstart protestant King in his place. This culminated in the two navies clashing outside Portsmouth harbour and led to the sinking of the Mary Rose. How this maritime disaster unfolded is well told and fits in well with the storyline of the novel.
If you enjoy immersing yourself in Tudor England, whilst simultaneously solving an unusual riddle, whilst witnessing one of the most famous sea disasters of the day, this novel is a nice way to go about it. You can buy the novel from Amazon here.