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C J Sansom has delivered another wonderful Matthew Shardlake mystery. The quality of these mysteries has, for me, varied from book to book with some (like Dissolution) keeping their secrets until the end while others (like Dark Fire) requiring far less effort for the reader to solve. This offering actually contains four distinct mysteries and Matthew has taken on the chore of answering all of them and, as part of solving them, becomes far too obsessed to be healthy. For the first time in all of these books I lost patience with Matthew Shardlake. Readers might expect him to place himself in some danger in trying to solve a mystery but here Matthew willfully ignores advice he knows is best, disobeys his Queen and purposefully antagonizes people who can do him harm. This is not the Matthew I have known throughout these books. He has always seemed well-centered and cautious, but not here.
On the positive side the main mystery, which involves the welfare of a child, is probably the most opaque and the resolution took me completely by surprise. The other mysteries, while less central to the main story line, were also interesting in their own way with some answers being more surprising than others.
Rating this book has been a problem for me. The mysteries are sufficiently interesting and difficult to solve to give this book a high rating but Matthew's behavior, which disturbed me more than it should have, made this book far less enjoyable than it could have been. In the end the wonderful narration by Steven Crossley was enough for me to give it 5 stars in spite of Matthew's erratic and disturbing behavior. One can only hope that the character sees his obsessiveness and returns to the more normal behavior pattern of the previous books.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
This is my first book by Sansom, but it certainly will not be the last. His attention to detail, outstanding character development and knowledge of law during the Tudor reign is remarkable. The mystery kept me on edge.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful