Historical fiction has never been my favorite genre, but after reading three exceptional history novels this year, I have to change my opinion. And I´m slightly angry at myself, avoiding all these great books out there, simply because I have a wrong perception of historical fiction. Stupid, stupid me (mental head slap moment right there).
At its heart “Dissolution” is a full-fledged murder mystery in which we follow lawyer Matthew Shardlake, sent by Lord Cromwell, to unravel a gruesome murder. He isn´t well received by the monks of the monastery of St. Donatus, apparently everyone has secrets and Shardlake is at a loss what really happened within the monastery walls. But by his wits and his ability to read people, he slowly manages to unveil the mysteries of the monastery.
I guess I don´t have to tell you that, but I like this book, a lot. Sansom does some great work mixing up the murder mystery with historical facts of the Tudor age and I really like the way how the dissolution of the monasteries, the death of Queen Jane and the beheading of Anne Boleyn are combined in the story. I really learned a few things about the Tudors and yes, once again I did some additional reading on the topic. I´m really enjoying books such as “Dissolution” much more than the boring history class back at school.
The biggest asset of the book though is the main character himself, being one of the most unique characters I have ever encountered. Shardlake is highly intelligent and devoted to his cause, yet he is riddled with self doubt and anguish and sometimes lets his emotions get the better of him. All this makes him the multifaceted character that he is and I like him a lot, even though his condescending manners sometimes made me want to kick him.
A minor downside is that I anticipated one part of the ending. Not the whole ending, but still I´m not particularly fond of this “Oh, I knew that would happen about a hundred pages ago”-feeling.
This is a great novel and if you are fond of historical mysteries, you should grab this book and read it.