It is 1543 in Tudor England, Henry VIII is on the throne and is “pursuing” Catherine Parr to be his sixth, and final wife. Revelation is the 4th book in the Matthew Shardlake series written by C. J. Sansom, with Shardlake being a young ex-monk turned lawyer based at Lincoln’s Inn, London.
It is a fearful time in England following the Dissolution of the monasteries and now there is a kind of reverse Reformation taking place because the King is moving back towards Catholicism and yet the over zealous bishops are seeking out anyone for punishment who isn’t following whatever doctrine suits them. People are in fear not knowing where they stand.
Matthew Shardlake has been appointed to investigate the case of a young boy imprisoned in Bedlam, the infamous medieval asylum for the insane, who has been constantly praying out loud in the streets, damning all sinners, and calling for God to save him. He is an embarrassment and a danger to “higher authorities” in London and his fate seems to be either locked up forever or burned at the stake for heresy! It is during his investigation that a fellow lawyer and friend of Matthew is brutally murdered with the body posed in a frozen fountain nearby, but the coroner hushes the inquest much to Matthews anger.
It is now that the theme of the book takes off as Matthew is summoned to see Archbishop Cranmer, a very powerful man in the King’s court where he learns that there has been two other murders in the same manner, though there seems to be no connection between the victims. Matthew becomes part of a team investigating the killings as further murders occur, each one seemingly staged to fit aspects of the bibles Book of Revelation. Is this the work of a religious fanatic, is the killer possessed, is he a threat to the King? The enquiries must be kept secret to prevent panic in London or to prevent King Henry lashing out at all and sundry.
I bought this book in Audible format and literally couldn’t put it down. It moves at the right pace, is historically accurate containing characters such as Catherine Parr, Thomas Seymour, Archbishop Cranmer, Bishop Bonner etc etc. It also keeps you guessing in many different ways right up to the end when the killer is identified, but also earlier about the methods and staging of each murder, who will be the next victim, and what is the connection with the young boy in Bedlam? My purchase was an accident as I believed I had read the earlier three novels; I hadn’t ….. so it’s back to Book 1 now, Dissolution!