Review: Lauren O’Connor-May
The 16th century is Tudor time and what would contemporary historical fiction be without a Tudor or two?
Tombland features not one, but two brief appearances by Tudors, though the story is primarily about Matthew Shardlake, a hunchback lawyer, who works as a hired lackey for Lady Elizabeth – who will one day become the famous queen.
Shardlake has successfully elevated himself from peasant to gentleman and enjoys close relationships with his servants because of his past. How this was done is presumably told in the predecessor books.
Tombland the place is in Norwich, England. It is the site of a bloody, historic battle between the common man and an oppressive gentry, which almost changes the status quo. Shardlake, while on an errand there for Elizabeth – investigating the mysterious murder of one of her distant Boleyn relatives – is unwittingly caught up in the battle.
The leader of the rebellion sniffs out his confused loyalties. He is regarded with suspicion by those who have noticed his equal good intentions to both the common man and gentry alike. So, he is constantly asked to pick sides – as the winning chips keep tipping in different directions.
But while all the historical politics is raging, there is a murder mystery to be solved. At the centre of the story is a “whodunnit”, which pops up sporadically in the narrative. With the help of some clever story-telling, the clues that point to the killer slowly surface as Shardlake tries to unentwine himself from the political barbed wire web.
I enjoyed this book, which is both heartwarming and violently gory. I was especially pleased that my guess at the killer was wrong. I always enjoy a book that surprises me.