cover image Lamentation


C.J. Sansom. Little, Brown/Mulholland, $27 (656p) ISBN 978-0-316-25496-0

Everything works in Sansom’s superb sixth Matthew Shardlake novel (after 2011’s Heartstone): the murder mystery with grave political implications, the depiction of Tudor England, and the further development of a lead who’s both courageous and flawed. The “great heresy hunt of 1546” has attorney Shardlake jumpy, especially after he reluctantly witnesses the burning of four people who denied transubstantiation, the belief that the consecrated host contains the body and blood of Christ. His efforts to survive in these uncertain times are complicated when he agrees to try to locate Lamentation of a Sinner, a private work written by Henry VIII’s queen, Catherine Parr, which has been taken from her chambers. In it, the queen speaks of her belief “that salvation comes through faith and study of the Bible, not vain ceremonies,” a view that would be too radical for her capricious husband. A few days after the theft, printer Armistead Greening is found in his shop with his head beaten in—and the first page of the volume clutched in his hand. Shardlake must now also identify Greening’s killer. The rich period details burnish Sansom’s status as one of today’s top historical writers. Agent: Jennifer Weltz, Jeanne V. Naggar Literary Agency. (Feb.)