A gripping thriller set in Tudor London in the last years of Henry the Eighth's reign when religion was becoming a flash point between those who leaned towards more austere Protestant views and those who had more Catholic leaning views. Henry himself seemed to be walking back from his earlier views and was appearing to be returning to a more Catholic view. There were significant numbers of people in his court who had more reformist inclinations and the tension between the two camps was spreading out across the population as each struggled for dominance. It is against this fraught background that a man is killed in a very public place and in a most unusual fashion. It is suspected that the killing may have some connection with Catherine Parr, who was being courted by the King and would become his sixth and final wife.
The man who was killed was a friend of Matthew Shardlake, a barrister and narrator of the story who finds himself entangled in the search for the killer. The search is made more difficult as those involved wish to keep it secret from the King and subsequent killings raise the stakes for everyone involved. The story is very well told, the plot unfolds at a nice pace, the strands are carefully woven and the reveals are nicely judged. The climax is excellent and forceful.
The plot is only one of the pleasures of the book, the context of Tudor London is wonderfully evoked and the cast are full of life and contradiction, they are very much people of their time, their views are fundamental to the plot and their interactions drive the story with great force. This is a hugely enjoyable book.