Autumn, 1546. King Henry VIII is slowly, painfully dying. His Protestant and Catholic councillors prepare for a final and decisive power struggle; whoever wins will control the government. The Catholics decide to focus their attack on Henry’s sixth wife, the Protestant Queen Catherine Parr. As Catherine begins to lose the King’s favor, she turns to the shrewd, hunchbacked lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, to contain a potentially fatal secret.
The Queen has written a confessional book, Lamentation of a Sinner, a memoir so radical that if it came to the King’s attention, it could bring her and her courtly sympathizers to ruination. The London printer into whose hands she entrusted the manuscript has been murdered, the book nowhere to be found.
Shardlake’s investigations take him down a trail that begins among printshops in the filthy backstreets of London, but leads him once more to the labyrinthine world of court politics, where Protestant friends can be as dangerous as Catholic enemies, and those who will support either side to further their ambition are the most dangerous of all.
This book I picked up for the mention of Catherine Parr. She’s my favourite Queen of the Tudor period (excepting Elizabeth I). I didn’t realise the book was part of a series at the time, but it does stand alone. The book itself is a little intimidating, it’s a very thick book and books like that tend to have many, many subplots going on. I put down Game of Thrones for a little while and now for the life of me can’t remember which character is which – it means I’m going to have to start all over again. But this book kept me interested, kept me reading because I wanted to know what happened to the story rather than to finish the doorstop of a book that had been on my shelf for months.
This is going to be quite a short review because I loved this book. I loved all the different characters, I love how I never got confused about who’s who, they were all introduced at the right time and in the right way and if they disappeared from the book (through death generally), then we understood why their death was needed in the story. Shardlake was the main POV, but the narration made it obvious when something was a fact and when his personal bias and circumstances were coming into play.
The historical setting was done really well, everything was understood what was happening without having Shardlake info dumping to himself/us, because that would have made little sense. I gritted my teeth at the inherent sexism of the time but if it hadn’t been there, that would have been a failing of the book, and it was done really well.
I loved this whole book. If I’m on holiday, I’ll take the earlier copies with me because they’ll keep me going for weeks. Five stars!