When a lawyer’s friend is murdered in Henry VIII’s England, he vows to solve the crime.
It’s 1543, and hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake, a serjeant in the Court of Requests, is carefully avoiding any political involvement that could lead to the type of trouble he’s narrowly escaped in the past (Sovereign, 2007). A sickly king is seeking to add Catherine Parr to his roster of wives. London is in turmoil as Henry drifts toward a popeless Catholicism while the Protestant faction at court plot to maintain their power. When his friend is found in a fountain with his throat slit, Matthew is furious that the courts and assistant coroner Harsnet have stonewalled until Harsnet reveals that Archbishop Cranmer is behind a cover-up. Because the political implications of the unfolding series of murders could damage the Protestant cause, Shardlake, aided by his Jewish assistant Jack Barak and a clever Moorish doctor, agrees to help solve the mystery. At length he realizes that the horrific crimes are based upon events in the Book of Revelation. The chief suspect is a doctor and former monk who Harsnet thinks is possessed by the devil and the others think is mad. The battle between religious fanatics and the dangerous courtly intrigue nearly overwhelms the clever lawyer’s considerable skills.
Shardlake’s fourth adventure is packed with fascinating historical detail and contemporary lessons. The mystery is cleverly woven, and slowly building tension will keep readers involved until the denouement.