Heartstone and book groups and a bit of a gap…

Yes, I know that I haven’t posted a blog for a while. This is not the beginning of the end…just that I went to London for a big service at St. Paul’s. And got stuck when no trains went further North than York. Still, respect to the train company – they sent me to a hotel, so not all was lost.

It did mean that I had more reading time, though. So I have nearly finished South Riding

(Cue photo of David Morrissey) among other books.

Another book that I’ve finished is Heartstone by C.J. Sansom.

Following his other four books in the Shardlake series, this novel deals with the lawyer’s legal activities during the last part of Henry VIII’s reign. He has been asked to investigate a tricky case of Wardship, where two children’s guardianship has led to two deaths. Shardlake also involves himself in the problems of a woman imprisoned in London’s notorious Bedlam. The collected effect of all this sleuthing is extreme danger from more than one source and at least one “how will he get out of that” moment. The subtitle of this book is “Shardlake Goes to War”, and the setting in a Portsmouth where an army is being moved against a threat of naval invasion by the French is very intensely drawn. The fighting force is seen as a group of individuals rather than a faceless group of men, and the characterisation of many minor characters is detailed and often moving.

Without giving away too much of a plot, this is a very detailed and absorbing book. The characters are fascinating and varied, the clues to the mysteries are present, so the novel does follow the murder writers’ rules. It is a book to be taken in large chunks, rather than individual chapters. That is not to say that it so confusing that the plot is lost between times, but that  it is so involving that it is a shame to take so long reading it that its impact is diluted. I really enjoyed this book; it is a treat to read a series that has spawned so many imitations. It is also generous with and to its female characters; queens and Princesses are drawn on in an insightful way.  I still haven’t managed Sansom’s Winter in Madrid but will try and find my copy now.

I actually went to the book group that was looking at Birds of a Feather which I re read recently. Overall I think the reaction was positive; my brief skim of the reviews showed that it was aimed at the American market which did explain some of the  descriptions of the English way of life in the 1930s. One person did point out that some of the journeys between Kent and London are too short. We also discussed one or two of the crucial plot points, the historical settings and the dependence on psychic detection. I think that nearly everyone was keen to read more in Windspear’s series of Masie Dobbs detective novels.  It was a good discussion; while everyone enjoyed reading the book it was not one of those groups where everyone just agreed to like it. And it was revealed which was the most popular book that we looked at last year: Enigma by Robert Harris. A coffee meeting is planned to discuss our best books soon; watch this space…


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