Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: England, 1541 - during the reign of King Henry VIII
This novel is the third installment in Sansom's Matthew Shardlake mystery series. The main character is a London lawyer who unwillingly becomes entangled in the intrigues of those close to the king.
King Henry's reformation of the church is not popular in the north of England. Recently, there has been a rebellion centered around the city of York. The king has undertaken a grand progress from London to York to solidify his hold on the north.
Shardlake has been asked to go to York to help with legal proceedings when the King visits. He has also been given the task to monitor the health of a traitorous prisoner. Matthew needs to make sure the prisoner doesn't die before he gets to London to be tortured. This additional chore forces Shardlake to become involved with royal politics and noble sycophants.
While he is in York, Shardlake stumbles upon papers which seem to show that Henry is not the true King of England. There are conspirators who want to overthrow the king, and who know Shardlake has seen these papers. Unfortunately, there are those close to the King who know that Shardlake may have learned the truth of King Henry's family tree. Soon there are several attempts on Shardlake's life. Can Matthew stay alive long enough to discover who is trying to kill him, and why?
Shardlake is not a shrewd sleuth. Instead he is a lawyer with a lawyer's ear for truth, memory for facts, and desire for justice. In this novel Shardlake discovers clues by investigating, asking questions, and just being nosy. Sometimes, he is in the wrong place at the wrong time. And sometimes he makes obvious mistakes. In my opinion, he is a likable realistic character.