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Matthew Shardlake Books in Order: How to read C. J. Sansom’s series?

Matthew Shardlake Books in Order: How to read C. J. Sansom’s series?
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More than 10 years ago, Kenneth Branagh was poised to play Matthew Shardlake for BBC. But he chose instead to star in Wallander. Since then, no news of an adaptation but you can read the celebrated book series.

Who is Matthew Shardlake?

Created by the Scottish-born writer C. J. Sansom, Matthew Shardlake is a hunchbacked lawyer-detective in the Tudor Court—during the reign of Henry VIII in the 16th century.

In his adventures, he is assisted by Mark Poer and then Jack Barak. Shardlake works on commission initially from Thomas Cromwell, then from Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Queen Catherine Parr.

Sansom has previously said that he plans to take the lawyer into the reign of Elizabeth I. We’ll see.

Matthew Shardlake Books in Order:

Every book in the Matthew Shardlake series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.

  1. Dissolution – The year is 1537, and the country is divided between those faithful to the Catholic Church and those loyal to the king and the newly established Church of England. When a royal commissioner is brutally murdered in a monastery on the south coast of England, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s feared vicar general, summons fellow reformer Matthew Shardlake to lead the inquiry.
  2. Dark Fire – In 1540, during the reign of Henry VIII, Shardlake is asked to help a young girl accused of murder. She refuses to speak in her defense even when threatened with torture. But just when the case seems lost, Thomas Cromwell, the king’s feared vicar general, offers Shardlake two more weeks to prove his client’s innocence. In exchange, Shardlake must find a lost cache of “Dark Fire,” a legendary weapon of mass destruction.
  3. Sovereign – Shardlake and his loyal assistant, Jack Barak, find themselves embroiled in royal intrigue when a plot against King Henry VIII is uncovered in York and a dangerous conspirator they’ve been charged with transporting to London is connected to the death of a local glazer.

  1. Revelation – In 1543, while Tudor England is abuzz with King Henry VIII’s wooing of Lady Catherine Parr, Matthew Shardlake is working to defend a teenage boy, a religious fanatic being held in the infamous Bedlam hospital for the insane. Then, when an old friend is murdered, Shardlake’s search for the killer leads him back not only to Bedlam but also to Catherine Parr–and the dark prophecies of the Book of Revelation.
  2. Heartstone – Summer 1545. A massive French armada is threatening England, and Henry VIII has plunged the country into an economic crisis to finance the war. Meanwhile, an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr has asked Matthew Shardlake to investigate claims of “monstrous” wrongs committed against a young ward of the court.
  3. Lamentation – Summer, 1546. King Henry VIII is slowly, painfully dying. His Protestant and Catholic councilors are engaged in a power struggle; whoever wins will control the government. The Catholic party focuses its attack on Henry’s sixth wife– Queen Catherine Parr. The Queen has authored a confessional book, Lamentation of a Sinner who has inexplicably vanished. Shardlake’s investigations take him into the dark and labyrinthine world of court politics, a world Shardlake swore never to enter again.

  1. Tombland – Spring, 1549. Two years after the death of Henry VIII, England is sliding into chaos. Matthew Shardlake has been working as a lawyer in the service of Henry’s younger daughter, the lady Elizabeth. The gruesome murder of one of Elizabeth’s distant relations, rumored to be politically murdered, draws Shardlake and his companion Nicholas to the lady’s summer estate, where a second murder is committed.


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R Johnston

Sunday 2nd of May 2021

I am addicted to Samson books - all of them, since friends in London recommended them. Love Britain, British authors, and British history Love from Canada Next is winter in Madrid


Tuesday 9th of July 2019

Yes, it is worth reading all those books. You can read Tombland on its own, but will not understand all details, because there are references to the past events from other books.

Lesley Cox

Thursday 19th of December 2019

Having just finished reading the wonderful Tombland and unfortunately have now completed the entire Shardlake series. I have to say, that feel somewhat deflated at the prospect, of parting company from Matthew Shardlake and his associates. I feel as though, I have a acquired a friend in the character of the fascinating, professional and kind lawyer. Once again, Marvellous reading; Bravo Mr Samson and thank you very much. Wonderful.

Bill Bastyr

Friday 15th of February 2019

Is it worth reading the previous books before Tombland


Saturday 22nd of June 2019

Yes! They really do set up the characters. The stories are in chronological order and follow the history of the time.

Sheridan Kirby

Friday 22nd of March 2019

Yes. Indeed. All brilliant. Tombland best yet!!