It is 1545 in England, Henry VIII is still on the throne and has had a disastrous outcome to his invasion of France. The French have assembled a massive fleet and are retaliating by intending to invade England. To finance these campaigns Henry has debased the common currency by adulterating the silver coins with 20% copper which effectively means 20% inflation! The mood across the country is becoming desperate as traders often refuse to accept the new coins in exchange for foods, clothing, and other goods. This is the continuing background against which the new case of our hero, Sergeant Lawyer Matthew Shardlake, in the CJ Sansom novel, Heartstone.
Matthew is called to see Queen Catherine Parr who he has known for some time since she married Henry and became queen. She asks him to investigate the suicide of a young man connected to a former servant of hers. The young man was a tutor of two orphaned children whose land and wealth had been taken and held in trust by a wealthy landowner who had also assumed the role of their guardian. Most of the action takes place in Hampshire and specifically around Portsmouth where Henry’s English fleet and army is being gathered in preparation for repelling the French fleet.
The book flits between military action and the case of the suicide and wealthy landowner, eventually with Sir Richard Rich looming large over everything Matthew gets involved in. The climax begins with the sinking of the Mary Rose off Portsmouth, but if I told you more it would remove the suspense and crux of the tale! Once again a brilliant medieval novel true to the historical accuracy of the times.