1 May 2021 Susannah

Absorbed in C.J. Sansom

C.J. Sansom audio books narrated by Anton Lesser

I have written before in this newsletter about the ‘Shardlake’ novels of C.J. Sansom. The books are murder mysteries set in the time of King Henry VIII, in London, and they are quite simply, for me, the best mystery novels ever! I read the first one, Dissolution, after reading a review in a NZ magazine, The Listener, which warned that the novel was addictive. I was hooked, and I feel the books just get better and better as the series progresses. Superb historical and legal detail, memorable characters, and you honestly feel that you are there in Tudor London, smelling the smells, sharing the religious fears of those uncertain times, and experiencing everything the hero Matthew Shardlake undergoes.

As it is now some time since I read the earlier novels in the series, I decided to revisit them, this time via audio books. They are brilliantly read by actor Anton Lesser (if you watch Endeavour, he plays the head police officer) and I have been utterly absorbed all over again. Oh, what a joy to have such a good actor bringing the characters and scenes vividly alive for me! I just wanted to keep driving my car to Brisbane, so I could continue listening to these marvellous novels. I have now listened to the first 3 in the series – 4 still to go!

It was reported a few years ago that C.J. Sansom was very ill with cancer and that his 7th Shardlake book would be his last. I am unable to find any updates as to his condition, but am fervently hoping that such a wonderful man will live to write more books. I am so grateful to him for the intense reading pleasure he has given me.

It is a book that makes you think about the moral issues of biography, about what should and should not be destroyed (was it right that Kafka’s literary executor, Max Brod, refused to carry out Kafka’s wishes and burn all his unpublished works? Was Cassandra Austen right to burn her sister Jane’s more private correspondence?), and about how a writer’s life can be shaped for posterity.

Give yourself a treat, get the first audio book in the series, Dissolution, and keep going with the ones that follow. Let me know by leaving a comment.
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Featured image credit- C.J. Sansom books
Body image credit- C.J. Sansom audio books narrated by Anton Lesser, https://www.audible.com.au/

Comments (32)

  1. Dietmar

    to make this even more confusing, it’s listed an Amazon Canada

  2. Sha

    Sadly, I think the rumour of an 8th book has been debunked. I’m in the C J Sansom Appreciation FB group where there was a lot of excitement about this, but someone emailed the publisher and was told no book was forthcoming. It’s all very confusing. There is no mention of the book on his publisher’s page either.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Oh no, that is so disappointing. It ia advertised on Good Reads. How could someone create such fake news???? It’s cruel to set up readers’ hopes and then they discover it’s all a scam.

  3. Dietmar

    I’m wondering if this is actually true.
    I’ve been searching the internet for something official and found nothing.
    Just this note on goodreads taht seems to have inspired a lot of rumors.
    I mean, if it is to be released on Random House, than i would expect to find something about in on their page.
    But, I want to believe!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Oh gosh, I desperately hope it is true. Who would make up something like that, and a title???? Let’s keep hoping.

  4. daisyriddle

    Hi, stumbled upon this post when I was looking for Tombland reviews. I love the Shardlake series. I’ve read that there will be an 8th book called Ratcliff, I’m not sure, I saw it on Google books and Goodreads. I would love to have another Shardlake series as I feel sad parting from him, but I hope if it’s true that there will be another book that he will have far more great adventures…

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Oh how wonderful to have another Shardlake book, if your info is correct. Thanks for your response – it’s always nice to meet another Sansom fan.

      • Elaine Wheeldon

        It’s true – I hope. Release date 8th November 2022. I’ve been saving Tombland because I couldn’t bear the thought of nothing to look forward to; better get on with it!!! Yippee!!!

        • Susannah Fullerton

          Isn’t it fabulous to have another Shardlake to look forward to. I’d thought Tombland was all nicely resolved if there were to be no more books in the series, but now I can’t wait to enter Shardlake’s world again.

  5. Maureen

    I was introduced to C J Sansom and Shardlake via our bookgroup and am enthralled by them both! the two men I mean. Sansom left school with no qualifications and now look. I do wonder how much of Sansom acts through Shardlake, who seems a most admirable and principled and so very human man. Yes, the smells the sights the sounds and also the terrors (just re-read Sovereign) all apart from the intrigues are wonderfully described. I hope Sansom is living well within the health difficulties he may be experiencing. All strength to him.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Evidently C J Sansom was badly bullied at school. I read a fascainting article he wrote about his time at a posh boys’ school in Edinburgh – he was utterly miserable there. I think that gave him added empathy when he describes the way poor Matthew Shardlake is picked on because of his back. I also hope that the publishing of his books has brought him huge joy and satisfaction – he has brought pleasure to millions of readers.

  6. Bernadette Power

    I’ve just re-read all of the Matthew Shardlake series again – must be at least my tenth reading of them. I started reading them again because I was feeling low after a family upset, and I knew these books would comfort me. Just finished reading Tombland again and loved it all over again. I’ve not found any updates about CJ Sansom either, but I sincerely hope he is well and continues to write – another Matthew Shardlake book would be amazing… I’m now going to re-read Dominion and Winter in Madrid…. Love all his books. Such a fabulous writer… 📚📚

    • Susannah Fullerton

      In my view he is the best mystery writer of all time! I do wish he will write another Shardlake novel. I have recommended the books to so many people and they have also loved them. And they are superb on audio, read by Anton Lesser.

  7. Mary Stretton

    I too love Shardlake, as others have stated the detai! etc is so real you can taste the fear and danger of the time. I read Dark Fire first, the book was lying about in a club’s library and always interested in the Tudor period, I thought I’ll give it a go! So glad I did! The books are so well written and sympathetic to the hardships and dilemmas of the period. I have read and re-read them all do hope Tombland is not the last.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I certianly hope that Tombland is not the last book we get form fabulous CJ Sansom!

  8. Bob

    I found my first Shardlake novel (a Hard copy of Heartstone) in a pile of books given to my wife from a work colleague at the start of the pandemic. I spent the summer of 2020 buying and reading the other six books. During this summer (2021) I re-read them all. Can’t think of better characters to spend my remaining summers with! I Hope there are other(s) to look forward to.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I think the fact that we can get such pleasure from rereading the books shows just how good they are. With most mystery novels, you don’t get much enjoyment from rereading because we know ‘who dunnit’, but it is the amrvellous historical detail in the Shardlake books, plus the superbly drawn characters that make them a delight to revisit.

  9. ray

    What a wonderful series. I first discovered them when I read former PM Theresa May had donated the first one to a lending library. Since then, I have read them all except for Tombland which I am presently on. I have noticed each new volume is longer and better.
    His standalone on the Spanish civil war in the 1930s is also excellent and bleak. I hate the thought of running out of this wonderful series.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I agree – a totally fabulous series. And I hadn’t heard that Theresa May also enjoyed them.
      I have adored listening to them read by Anton Lesser – he does it so superbly. And I long for more and hope Sansom’s health permits that.

  10. Teresa Twomey

    I’ve just finished Heartstone by CJ Sansom and I loved it. I also read that the seventh book may be the last because the author is ill, therefore I want to hold on to the last two for as long as possible even though I’d love to start reading the 6th book right now. I’ll miss Matthew and Jack when I’m finished.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      They are so fabulous. I recently read them all again by listening to the unabridged audio versions read by Anton Lesser – superb!

  11. I own all the books and have read them through twice, the second time as I was writing a review for the Plantagenet Society on historical crime novels. So enjoyed them all and am so sorry to hear of C.J. Sansom’s failing health. I’d love to read the ‘next one’ with Elizabeth on the throne.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      So glad you share my love of Sansom’s novels. Let’s hope he recovers and can write more for us.

  12. Dee Selkirk

    Hi Susannah.
    I totally agree with you regarding C JSansom’s wonderful novels. I received the first as a gift then started
    to put them on Kindle, then I bought the whole series for my husband, because I couldn’t bear not to have the hard copies ! Like you, I have been trying to find out about his health. I for one will be heart broken if Tombland is his last book.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      So glad you share my passion for his books. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have more of them, leading into the era of Elizabeth I (which is what he originally planned).

    • Margy

      These books were very much a change for me but I adored them all. I also don’t normally enjoy reading books in a series but again CJ Sansom had me enthralled. I felt the heat, the cold, the dirt and all the smells that Matthew did! I watched Britain’s Most Historic Towns recently with the episode on Norwich, knowing the names and the history of the uprising. I will definitely look for the audio books for my next road trip.

      • Susannah Fullerton

        I am so glad you also love them! You just feel you are there in Tudor London.
        I met your parents recently, which was lovely!

  13. Marsha Elizabeth Mongeau

    Thank you for the review of CJ Sansom. I love historical novels and mysteries and Sansom delivers both in one (actually several) books. I’ve devoured each of his books and agree they are the best! I waited anxiously for each new book in the Sharkdake series and was so sad to hear Sansom is not well. I wish him a full recovery and some restful downtime but want more of his books in the future.
    Have you read Dominion? His alternative history novel. It is very interesting although different from the Tudor mysteries.
    I haven’t tried the audio books but will now on your recommnedation.
    THank you for your newsletter which I await eagerly.
    Marsha, Toronto, Canada.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      How lovely to know that you too have adored CJ Sansom’s books. The history, characters, legal detail and mysteries, are all superb. Do try the audio versions – they are totally addictive.
      So nice to hear from a fellow Canadian (I was born in Edmonton, though left Canada at age of 4).

  14. Eril Maybury

    I’ve just finished listening to Dissolution on audible and loved it. Loved Matthew very much and the historical setting is fascinating.
    So well written. So enjoyable.
    Can’t wait to listen to Dark Fire next. Thanks for the recommendation Susannah.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I am making my way through the audio books with absolute delight, so glad I’ve got you hooked too!

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