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Carpe Librum

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Historical Novel Society

Heartstone by CJ Sansom

Heartstone - C.J. Sansom

I don't consider myself much of a fangirl. I never joined Team Edward or Team Peeta. Never even swooned at the thought of Mr. Darcy. But you can sign me up for Team Matthew.

In the fifth installment of Sansom's Matthew Shardlake mysteries our unlikely heroes are out to find justice and rescue the downtrodden once again. This time, the backdrop is Portsmouth and surrounding countryside as the French prepare to attack during the summer of 1545. Henry VIII is aging and becoming more irrational regarding his escapades against the French that achieve nothing other than reducing the population of young men on both sides.

As with the prior novels, there are a multitude of moments when I felt my heartstrings tugged for Matthew, who is always trying to do what is right, even if it may kill him. Thankfully, he has the more street-wise Jack Barak to always watch his back.

Barak's character has evolved and aged, and we see he and Tamasin preparing for the birth of their second child after the loss of their first in Revelation. Though he is settling into married life, Barak still has his fighting spirit that leads him into trouble at times. He and Matthew are the perfect pair.

Sansom never fails to expertly recreate Tudor England, from the London streets to the deck of the Mary Rose. Through Shardlake and Barak's travels in this novel, we visit a priory that has been converted to the residence of a gentleman with new money, small out-of-the-way villages, and the stinking army camps as England prepares for invasion. Each scene is written to enable the reader to perfectly envision the scene and feel as though we know each character personally.

The dual mysteries in Heartstone build slowly and suspensefully, leaving me with several conflicting theories regarding the likely outcome. Each one was wrong. Matthew manages to uncover all sorts of secrets and find new souls for him to attempt to save. He gets so caught up in his need to know truth and seek justice that he gets himself to a point where he wearily admits defeat in a heartbreaking moment.

I have Lamentation on my shelf, and part of me wants to scoop it up right away....but I will wait, because I just don't know what I will do when I have no more Matthew Shardlake stories to read.