Bring Up the Bodies, By Hilary Mantel

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In place of the smithy-to-court social ascent in Wolf Hall, the middle passage of Mantel's Thomas Cromwell trilogy delivers top-level, close-focus state crisis.

In 1535-36, the subtle, sympathetic minister, still a man of lethally persuasive words, sparks a palace revolution. He harnesses Henry's infatuation for Jane Seymour as a vehicle to crush Anne Boleyn and her proud clan.

New readers might even choose to start here, at the storm's eye, as Mantel's crackling, compact, muscular prose fuels a plot of intrigue, betrayal and revenge.