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Heartstone: A Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery (Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mysteries) Paperback – December 21, 2011
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The clever plotting and brilliantly evoked world of Heartstone-the fifth Matthew Shardlake mystery from bestselling author C. J. Sansom-will dazzle both mystery fans and Tudor history buffs.
Summer 1545. A massive French armada is threatening England, and Henry VIII has plunged the country into economic crisis to finance the war. Meanwhile, an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr has asked Matthew Shardlake to investigate claims of "monstrous" wrongs committed against a young ward of the court. As the French fleet approaches, Shardlake's inquiries reunite him with an old friend-and an old enemy close to the throne.
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Matthew had already planned to journey to this same area in his own quest for the truth. He'd set for himself the task of learning what had happened to Ellen Fetti-Place nineteen years ago that had driven her to madness and to become an inmate at Bedlam. Matthew had met her two years ago while visiting a young boy who was also an inmate at Bedlam. Although Ellen had seemed to be the sanest inmate there she was too terrified of the outside world to set foot out of Bedlam's protective doors.
Samson weaves these stories with the events of the times and gives a lover of historical fiction an enjoyable read.
Like all the other books in the series, this story begins with Shardlake taking on a case to right a possible wrong only to find himself involved in more circumstances than he bargained for. Shardlake is a tenacious character even to the point of throwing himself into danger and making himself an irritant to influential men who have the power to destroy his career or even take his life. The time he lives in and the law he practices can both be dangerous. I always learn so much about the English system of laws when I read one of these novels. This one focuses, once again, on the plight of anyone unfortunate enough to be deemed insane and the Court of Wards, a completely corrupt arm of the law which is supposed to represent the most innocent of victims, orphaned children. Instead we see through this novel how corrupt it was with knowledge of this corruption starting with the reigning monarch and going all the way to the clerks who worked in the government offices. All of this was allowed because of the vast sums of money the wardships brought to the royal treasury and the pockets of everyone else involved along the way. British law has been an example for many countries to use when formulating their own law courts. It is fascinating for me to see how far the doctrines of fairness have come.
I also can't read one of these novels without learning an incredible amount about the social structure and historical events of the Tudor period. Even though Sansom admits to taking some liberties with historical records he candidly discloses that in the historical notes at the end of the book. By the way, often I will go to any historical notes provided in a book of this type before I start reading the book to better prepare myself for what the novel will be concerned with. In this case, I wish I had waited until I had finished the novel before reading the notes. There is actually a spoiler contained in those notes. Best if you wait until you've finished the book before checking out the notes. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Bedlam again, even if it did reinforce the sad fact that mental illness was so completely misunderstood during this time. I also was fascinated by the re-enactment of the threatened French invasion of England in the Summer of 1545. Shardlake had some remarkable adventures and once again he learned hard lessons about himself and those he came in contact with. My only criticism of the novel would be that there did seem to be a tendency to repeat information more often than was strictly needed and some situations went on longer than I liked. There was an awful lot of traveling back and forth between Portsmouth, Hoyland, and Rolfswood. Even having said that, I will still be eager to read the next exciting book in this series.