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Heartstone is the fifth novel in Sansom’s best-selling ‘Shardlake’ series; Dissolution, Dark Fire, Sovereign and Revelation. However, do not think that it necessary to have read the first four before embarking on the fifth. Heartstone does not require a previous, in-depth knowledge of the characters involved as the crux of the tale and those involved are explained as the story unfolds.
Heartstone is not an easy-going read, it takes a certain level of commitment to get through the first two chapters in-particular, as the reader is hurled in to the 16th century and King Henry VIII’s invasion of France. It is summer, 1545, and the hero of the tale is Shardlake; an un-likely hero, with a hunch-back, and unacceptably sympathetic for a lawyer in the severe King Henry’s rule. Shardlake is to look into a case of ward-ship, as a favour to the Queen, Catherine Parr. This is quickly revealed to be no ordinary case as it begins with suicide, or possibly murder, and as Shardlake is attacked in an attempt to have him desist his inquiries in to the already disturbing state of affairs.
Shardlake and his clerk Barak, must out-wit slimy lawyer Dyrick who they suspect to have something to do with Shardlake’s attack, and Master Hobbey his client, whose ward-ship of Hugh Curteys is under investigation as requested by the Queen. The plot is thickened by Shardlake’s acquaintance with Bedlam inmate, Ellen Fettiplace, who was sent to Bedlam nineteen years prior, after she was raped aged sixteen. Ellen should have been discharged the following year, yet someone continues to pay her fees and she refuses to leave, claiming agoraphobia to be the cause. As Shardlake, Barak, Dyrick and his clerk the puritanical preaching Feaveryear, travel from London to Hoyland, the home of Master Hobbey and Hugh Curteys, more of Ellen’s history is revealed as Shardlake asks questions around her home-town of Rolfswood.
Sansom merges historical fact with fiction seemingly effortlessly, as what is a complex web of information is kept linked together by Shardlake’s narration. The narration from our hero has the added bonus of allowing a certain amount of informality in the more serious situations, and is often

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Tags: C J Sansom, Heartstone

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