Recent Reading

The first few CJ Sansom books I read were enjoyable, but frustrating at times. The character, Shardlake, Tudor lawyer and hunchback, was perhaps too delicate and, well, a bit wet for me to really enjoy following (especially after reading The Name of the Rose), yet I stuck with them for the intrigue and the rich historical detail and because I love a good bit of monk action (don’t ask).

Everything changed with Revelation – this was utterly compelling. I’m not one to even like the term ‘page-turner’, but this indeed was a very effective one. Personally, since I write, I find it hard to switch off the analysis; but this book made me forget all about that. I just enjoyed it.

It is a Tudor thriller that’s put together in a beautiful way; which is saying something for what is a novel that has some thoroughly dark and grotesque moments. The scene: Henry VIII is about to get is leg-over for the sixth time and a serial killer is set loose on the streets of London, a killer that is using the Book of Revelation as his guide for a set of truly brutal murders. Shardlake’s old friend is slaughtered right at the beginning, and Shardlake and his trusty sidekick are drawn into a sickening series of crimes. At first, nothing out of the ordinary, perhaps, but it’s the way it’s done.

I think why this works is because, oddly for a historical novel, the structure relies less upon history than its own internal mechanisms: the juxtaposition of inner turmoils and plot; the parallel examples of possible insanity; that this was something that could work well in any time period. All of these things with effective deceiving of the reader, a tricksy ending, and good in that it doesn’t opt for the easy way out. The fact that you learn a bit of history is a boon.

I’m certainly hooked.

Next up is actually a whisky book, Peat Smoke and Spirit, which might oddly enough be one of the most wonderfully written books I’ve read all year. Then I can get on to the books my editor sent me.

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About Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.


  1. So is the series one you can jump into wherever, or do you need to have read the previous books?

  2. I’d say you could jump in on this one quite easily, yeah. A lot of the characters’ backstory is dropped in the odd bit of conversation here and there, so you get that depth of time from the other novels.