This fourth novel in the series featuring C J Samson's 16th-century hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake, is nearly a tick-all-the-boxes, on-trend combination of history and crime, pandering as it does to our apparently never-ending fascination with the Tudors and with those biblically-inspired serial killers in the manner of the film Seven, to form the basis of the plot.
When Shardlake's close friend is murdered in a particularly bizarre manner, the ensuing investigation takes on a personal element. (Is it desire for revenge or desire for justice that motivates the seeker after truth? It's always a staple question of crime fiction.) Samson's historical detail is nicely plied, never too forced, but his tone can be a little dry and, in spite of the fascinating period – Lady Latimer is about to become Catherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry the VIII, unless counter-reformationists stop the whole show, while incarceration in Bedlam looms for another young character – tension is subdued almost to the point of silence.