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 . . .?
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).
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.
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.
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.
The Bedlam Hospital that appears in Revelation is no figment of the authors 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 existing building (today the site of the Liverpool Street Station) caused Bethlem to move to a grand, new space with wide hallways and elegant ironwork. During this time, the only alternative to Bethlem for British in need of psychiatric...
The year is 1527. The great portraitist Hans Holbein, who has fled the reformation in Europe, is making his first trip to England under commission to Sir Thomas More. In the course of six years, Holbein will become a close friend to the More family and paint two nearly identical family portraits. But closer examination of the paintings reveals...
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