Lamentation by C J Sansom

Lamentation is the sixth (currently penultimate) Matthew Shardlake novel by C J Sansom.

It follows on a year from events in Heartstone. King Henry VIII’s health is fading fast and religion is literally a matter of life and death. Right at the start, Shardlake is forced to attend a burning of heretics, including a young woman, Anne Askew. The sight of the burning haunts him throughout the book. It has become dangerous to discuss religion and beliefs, but it feels like Shardlake and his contacts and colleagues can’t stop themselves from talking about it.

Once more, Shardlake is summoned to help Queen Catherine Parr. The Queen has written a book about her religious beliefs – Lamentations of a Sinner. The book sails quite close to the wind and could be dangerous in the wrong hands – including the hands of her husband, the increasingly volatile King.

The book has been stolen and the Queen asks Shardlake to find out what may have happened to it. It is a dangerous task, so dangerous that he initially doesn’t dare involve his assistant, Jack Barak. Barak has recently become a father and his wife, Tamasin, is pregnant again. Rather than put Barak in danger, Shardlake enlists the help of his new employee, a young gentleman with no seemingly no fear.

All of this is set against the backdrop of a particularly tricky inheritance case between a brother and sister who hate each other.

There are murders and deadly fights along the way, yet still no progress on the whereabouts of the Queen’s book. There are encounters with Shardlake’s enemy, Sir Richard Rich, and an argument with an old friend, yet Lamentation remains lost. It got to the point where I was shouting in my head at Shardlake and Barak to give up on the case because it would only lead them into danger.

Fellow Shardlake fan, Natalie from Plutonium Sox, told me Lamentation was her favourite book in the series. I must admit that, for the first half of the book, I didn’t agree with her. It felt quite slow and my favourite character, Barak, didn’t feature much. But in the end, of course, he couldn’t resist getting in on the action despite the danger, and the pace of the book really quickened up.

Lamentation is another brilliant read for Shardlake fans. If you like detective stories or historical fiction, I would strongly recommend the series. While you could read Lamentation as a standalone novel, it works best as part of a series. It is interesting to follow the little backstories of Shardlake and the people around him as they grow older, change and sometimes move on.

I’m looking forward to reading the final part in the series, Tombland.

Catherine Parr really did write Lamentations of a Sinner (although it wasn’t stolen), Anne Askew really was burned for heresy and many of the characters in the novel, including Richard Rich were really people.

Lamentation, Lamentation by C J Sansom, C J Sansom, Book review

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. I’ve not read any of the books and it’s not really something I would choose. But after reading your review I’m thinking that it sounds very intriguing. As someone who has only read a few historical novels, I may take a look at the first book and see how I get on.

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    • It was actually this series which got me started on historical novels! The first novel in the series was my least favourite – probably because I was getting used to reading about this new era, but I obviously liked it enough to carry on with the series.

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  2. I’ve still got a stack of these including this one on the shelf waiting to be read. Interested in the snippet about Catherine Parr having actually written a book – I’d never heard of that

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    • I’m sure you will enjoy them! They can be a bit daunting to start with because they’re such big books.
      I didn’t know that about Catherine Parr and the book either. I’d assumed it was something invented for this story.

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