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destroyed (was it right that Kafka’s literary executor, Max Brod, refused to carry out Kafka’s wishes and burn all his unpublished works?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.