Friday, 28 December 2018

Tudors In Tombland

Tombland is a beautiful old part of Norwich beside the Cathedral.  The name does not refer to burials- it is simply an old word for an open space. In Saxon times, this was the site of Norwich Market [the Normans moved it to its current location] You can read about this area here.
But Tombland is also the title of the latest CJ Sansom book in his Shardlake series [the 7th]

It is 1549, and lawyer Matthew Shardlake has been sent, by Princess Elizabeth, to find out about a relative, John Boleyn, who has been accused of murder and is languishing in the gaol under Norwich Castle.
With his assistant Nicholas, he travels up to this fair city to attempt to discover the truth.
The locals are very unsettled- land enclosures are making life very difficult for the poor people, and they are resentful of the way the gentry are getting richer whilst they are starving.
Shardlake meets up with his former assistant Barak, and even tracks down the young woman who was previously his maidservant.
His attempts to unravel the murder mystery prove dangerous enough - but then Shardlake and everyone else, gets embroiled in Kett's Rebellion
This genuine attempt to air the grievances of the common people turned into vicious, bloody fighting. Robert Kett and his brother William were both hanged as traitors. 
Sansom is meticulous in his historical accuracy - and cleverly weaves Shardlake into the middle of the Rebellion story I learned at school in Norfolk 50 years ago. He uses the Norfolk accent well - not overdoing it, but with enough dialect words to make it believable.  
I think this may well become one of my favourites in the series. I certainly want to check out a few of the locations I am not so familiar with. Kett was branded a traitor, but is now regarded as the people's hero. The cover of the book shows the panel from the door of Norwich City Hall which depicts Kett with the noose around his neck.
But be warned, it is a Very Long Book. 880 pages! The book was published in mid October, and I pre-ordered from Jarrolds in Norwich so that Bob could have it for his birthday. He was therefore able to read it in our half term break. It has taken me three weeks.
Matthew Shardlake is a man of integrity, and humanity. Mocked for his hunchback, he is acutely aware of what it feels like to be ostracised, and often shows compassion to those in need, even when he sometimes comes off badly himself. 
Many of the issues raised in the book have a contemporary relevance. One morning, the lawyer is walking into the Cathedral and passes a beggar. Nicholas firmly dissuades him from throwing down a coin ["they will all come after us if they think our purses are full"] Matthew hopes somebody else will assist the man. A day or two later the beggar is still in the same spot- but dead from starvation. I read this chapter on the very day when a homeless man died just outside Parliament...
Location, language, plot, relationships, ethical dilemmas - all there in a tale brilliantly told. 
This one is definitely *****
Spoiler alert - despite the high body count, Shardlake survives to the end of the book. Which is good news, as it means Sansom can write some more in the series.


  1. It sounds like a very interesting book! I enjoyed reading about Tombland.

  2. I love the Shardlake books, something I can really get my teeth into.

  3. I was bought Dissolution as a present about 7years ago and still haven't read it! I think I should!x

  4. Interesting book!! It's always fun to cuddle up with a good book!!

  5. Avoided reading this post as I have the book here!

  6. Thanks for the information about Tombland.
    My husband is sitting next to me reading Heartstone as we speak and asked if you know what “heartstone” is.
    I have been trying to get him to read the series for years. He's now hooked.
    I have just read Tombland. Sue


Always glad to hear from you - thanks for stopping by!
I am blocking anonymous comments now, due to excessive spam!