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    Review of DISSOLUTION by C. J. Sansom>

    Viking, , 2003

    Lord Thomas Cromwell assigns attorney and reformer Matthew Shardlake and his clerk, Mark Poer to a critical task--someone has killed one of King Henry VIII's commissioners. Since the murder took place in a monastary and since Henry and Cromwell are both anxious to seize more monastary properties, the opportunity seems ripe. But Henry's reforms have already resulted in revolt. Shardlake is assigned the dual task of finding the commissioner's killer and also bringing about the surrender of the monastery into the hands of the crown.

    What Shardlake finds confirms his reformist beliefs. If the monks ever practiced poverty and self-denial, they have long since abandoned such discomforts. But gluttony is not the sin that Shardlake was sent to eliminate. And finding the killer proves more difficult than he first suspected. The monastery is filled with people who would wish ill on the late commissioner, but only one of them actually performed the murder. Evidence points Shardlake in one direction after another, but never seems to lead him closer to the truth.

    Meanwhile, both Shardlake and Matthew fall for the attractive servant Alice. Shardlake believes that Alice holds the key to some secret--if only he can keep her alive long enough to gain her trust. Alice's attractiveness hasn't escaped the monks, either. Several of them hold grudges against her--Shardlake's suspicions grow when he learns that Alice's predecessor as assistant in the infirmary vanished under questionable circumstances.

    Author C. J. Sansom draws a vivid picture of England under the Tudors. The nation, and all of Europe is convulsed with its faith and wrong beliefs can be equated to treason. Cromwell and the protestant reformers will do anything--tell any lie--to keep power and drive toward their desired goals. Shardlake believes in the protestant cause--he has seen too much of the folly of Rome to believe otherwise. But what he learns makes him question whether even a protestant King will really bring about the Christian commonwealth.

    DISSOLUTION is well written and interesting. The mystery plot wanders from time to time, but character growth and interaction as well as fine historical detail combine to create a fascinating story.

    See more reviews of novels by C. J. Sansom.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 8/16/03

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