Summary and book reviews of Revelation by C.J. Sansom

Revelation

By C.J. Sansom

Revelation
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2009,
    560 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2010,
    560 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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Book Summary

Spring, 1543. King Henry VIII is wooing Lady Catherine Parr, whom he wants for his sixth wife. But this time the object of his affections is resisting. Archbishop Cranmer and the embattled Protestant faction at court are watching keenly, for Lady Catherine is known to have reformist sympathies.

Matthew Shardlake, meanwhile, is working on the case of a teenage boy, a religious maniac locked in the Bedlam hospital for the insane. Should he be released to his parents, when his terrifying actions could lead to him being burned as a heretic?

When an old friend is horrifically murdered Shardlake promises his widow, for whom he has long had complicated feelings, to bring the killer to justice. His search leads him to both Cranmer and Catherine Parr – and to the dark prophecies of the Book of Revelation.

As London's Bishop Bonner prepares a purge of Protestants Shardlake, together with his assistant, Jack Barak, and his friend, Guy Malton, follow the trail of a series of horrific murders that shake them to the core, and which are already bringing frenzied talk of witchcraft and a demonic possession – for what else would the Tudor mind make of a serial killer . . .?

The high chandeliers in the Great Hall of Lincoln’s Inn were ablaze with candles, for it was late afternoon when the play began. Most members of Lincoln’s Inn were present, the barristers in their robes and their wives in their best costumes. After an hour standing watching my back was starting to ache, and I envied the few elderly and infirm members who had brought stools.

The performance of a play at Lincoln’s Inn traditionally held in March had been cancelled earlier in the month because of heavy snow; late in the month it was still unseasonably cold, the breath of actors and audience visible, wafting up like smoke. The play that year was a new interlude, The Trial of Treasure, a heavy-handed moral fable with the gorgeously robed actors portraying the vices and virtues of mankind. As the actor playing Virtue, resplendent in a long white false beard, lectured Dissimulation on his deceitful ways – appropriately, perhaps, to an audience of lawyers &...

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Reviews

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If you are unfamiliar with Matthew Shardlake and his Sherlockian escapades, don’t feel that you must start at the beginning of the series to enjoy this story. Revelation is perfectly accessible as a stand-alone novel. Though Sansom doesn’t provide much of Matthew's personal history or how he's connected to the people in his employ, there's enough information for the reader to gain a foothold and dive into the plot -- and that's a great thing because the plot is nuanced, intelligent, and surprising.   (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Shardlake's fourth adventure is packed with fascinating historical detail and contemporary lessons. The mystery is cleverly woven, and slowly building tension will keep readers involved until the denouement.

Publishers Weekly

Starred review. With its wealth of period detail, compelling characters and bold, fast-moving plot, this may be the most rousing Shardlake adventure so far.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Readers will be absorbed in Shardlake's pursuit of this demented murderer. Highly recommended for all historical mystery collections.

The Guardian (UK)

The other great appeal of these books, apart from the cast of regular characters, is the richness of Sansom's historical research... He also achieves the rare alchemy of combining characters who are sympathetically modern in their psychology with a setting that is authentically historical.

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Beyond the Book

Bethlem Hospital

The Bedlam Hospital that appears in Revelation is no figment of the author’s imagination. It is fashioned after what is perhaps the oldest hospital for the mentally ill in the Western world, Bethlem Hospital in London. Bethlem has also gone by the name Bedlam, the root of the modern English word bedlam, meaning "uproarious confusion." Open at first to small groups of patients in the 1300s, Bethlem hospital was long the only hospital in Britain for the mentally ill. The wealthy families who could afford to have patients confined and "treated" unwittingly (or wittingly) subjected their loved ones to cruel and inhumane conditions.

In the 17th century, the need for more room and the dire conditions of the ...

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