Book Review: Tombland, by CJ Sansom

Book Review: Tombland: A Shardlake Novel 7, by CJ Sansom

Book 7 in the Shardlake series sees Matthew Shardlake, Sergeant-at-Law, take up his law robes and investigate murder and mayhem again in the year 1549.


Lovers of English, historical fiction, rejoice, for there is a new book on our bookshelves thanks to CJSansom.

Tombland, the 7th instalment of the beloved Shardlake series, once again sees Matthew Shardlake, Sergeant-at-Law, take up his law robes and investigate a complicated mystery of murder and mayhem in the unsettled town of Norwich on Lady Elizabeth’s behalf in the summer of 1549. Political dissent, peasant uprisings and a country at war with both its neighbours and internally, lends itself to be the stage for our hero’s undertakings, with the help of his assistant, Nicholas Overton, and good friend, Jack Barak.

Upon picking up the novel, one must be forgiven for perhaps putting it back down thanks to both the heft of the volume, and also the cover – it looks as though it is a piece of pure historical fact and retelling. However, a quick glance at the blurb will assuage those fears and introduce Sansom’s literary skills to the reader.

Sansom has beautifully rendered the period after King Henry VIII into a vivid world for the reader to descend upon. With language that doesn’t isolate the reader (there is a tendency for books based in that time to be simplistic or confusing given the lack of standardised English that author’s often try to copy), Sansom captures the drama and mystery very well. His characters are all different, memorable and personified with flawed and human traits. He also does not gloss over the more nauseating aspects of humanity from the time.

A redeeming feature for the size of the novel, is the ease in which one can put the book down and then come back to it later without feeling as though they are missing important events by taking a break. This makes up for the fact that, in my opinion, it is definitely too long for the average reader. As it is the 7th book of the series, I also recommend that readers pursue the story from Sansom’s first book of the series, Dissolution. This will limit the number of confusing moments where past events are referenced, but not fully explained. The occasional creative take on historical events will frustrate historians, but makes the novel a much easier read than it could have been.

Skilfully written, with a cast of delightfully colourful characters and a dash of mayhem and murder, Tombland makes for some excellent reading if you can devote the time to it and have explored Shardlake’s earlier tales.

Reviewed by Zoe Butler
Twitter: @Zoe_Rambles

Rating out of 10:  7

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: October 2018
RRP: $29.99

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