In 1534, the English king Henry VIII abandons the Church of Rome so that he may divorce his Spanish wife and marry the English Anne Boleyn instead. He appoints himself the head of his own Anglican Church. Everybody is forced to convert; whoever dares to refuse is sentenced to death. Monasteries and convents throughout the whole country are dismantled and churches deprived of their relics.
In 1537, the king has just gotten rid of Anne Boleyn. She was decapitated after being accused of adultery. The entire nation is in fear and trembling of the arbitrariness of the constantly changing new rules. The clergy live a fearful life facing an insecure future. Not without reason: the king sends his men to seize all their property and convey it to the crown.
These are the circumstances in which the royal court sends Matthew Shardlake to a monastery to investigate a murder. He is a supporter of the ecclesiastical reformations because of the many cases of corruption and abuse of power in the Roman-Catholic church. He is not a very welcome guest at the monastery.
Shardlake is a lawyer who works for the king on a regular basis. He has no choice: you cannot refuse the king anything. And, of course, he has to come up with a solution that pleases him. Failure is not an option.
Sharlake is a grumpy hunchback. He makes no effort to endear himself to anybody. He does his job in all conscience and they will just have to take him the way he is.
He is the main character in the historical thriller 'Dissolution' by the British writer C.J. Sansom, a former lawyer. It is the first part of a wonderful series in the making. These books paint a beautiful picture of an exciting period in the history of England. And you cannot help loving Shardlake.