After reading and enjoying ‘Heartstone’ by C.J.Sansom I went searching for his earlier novels and found the fourth in his Shardlake series ‘Revelation’. C.J.Sansom’s novels seem to be as much a documentary on the changes and conditions of the British populace as a result of King Henry’s fluctuating religious beliefs and vigorous search for a new bride every few years.All of which only adds to the appeal of the book. For example, I never knew that after breaking away from the Catholic church, King Henry tried to bring his ‘Church of England’ back to the old strictures of the original. And the oppression of women in British history is mind-boggling.
Anyway, this novel takes place during the King’s wooing of the Lady Catherine Parr as a backdrop. It tends to provide an interesting insight into the political and religious implications of the match as are perceived by the people surrounding the Lady Parr. Seargent Shardlake is approached to fight for the case of a young man incarcerated in Bedlam for lunacy which has taken the form of a religious mania. This is the novel when he meets the other inmate Ellen who forms a major protagonist in Sansom’s next novel. Also, when one of his best friends is murdered in a very grotesque and exhibitionist way, in the very beginning of the novel, Shardlake takes a vow to uncover the truth of the murder with or without the help of the authorities. Here, he meets several people who are helpful and committed to finding the killer even if they are forcing him to keep the investigation under cover. In this novel too, we see the ‘bulldog-like’ tenacity of Shardlake in following his investigations.
I don’t know if it is because I read ‘Heartstone’ first, but I feel that novel is better written than this one, which is a good thing because it shows that the author is only getting better with his progressive works. And as his novels follow the historical events taking place in England it seems to give a fluidity to the whole enterprise which is refreshing. While I was looking for an image of the novel I came across a blog by Mark Charan Newton about the same where he describes Shardlake as ‘ perhaps too delicate and, well, a bit wet for me to really enjoy following’ and I wondered if it is a boy-girl thing. I mean I loved Shardlake for the exact same reasons, for being not your typical hero. He is afraid of physical assaults, of being thrown in jail and of the inevitable bullies that surround a king’s court and yet he will not give up his search for justice. Now if that isn’t courage, what is?