Sansom, C. J.

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Male. Education: Earned Ph.D. (history); earned J.D.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Viking, Penguin USA, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.


Attorney and fiction writer.


Dissolution, Viking (New York, NY), 2003.


C. J. Sansom worked as a lawyer prior to becoming a professional writer. His debut novel, Dissolution, "provides readers with a vivid Tudor historical mystery," according to Harriet Klausner in an online review for Books 'n' Bytes. Dissolution takes place in England in 1537, as Thomas Cromwell, vicar-general to King Henry VIII, is aiding the king in his efforts to undermine the authority of the Roman Catholic Church within England. Cromwell eagerly accepts the challenge, although he is concerned about a possible uprising from those opposed to the Crown as well as by demoralized Catholics, or Papists. When an agent of the King turns up dead while on the King's business at the remote Monastery of St. Donatus the Ascendant in Scarnsea, Cromwell fears his worries have come to pass. He enlists the help of hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake and Shardlake's young, handsome assistant Mark Poer in investigating the death and finding the agent's killer. Shardlake gladly accepts the case; he has been an enemy of the Catholic Church since being refused the priesthood due to his deformity. The task proves to be anything but easy, however, as Shardlake and Poer find themselves outnumbered and despised for being outsiders at the remote monastery, where they are surrounded by corruption, uncooperative monks, and sexual depravity. When Shardlake discovers the remains of another victim in the monastery pond, he realizes that all is not what it seems, including Cromwell, who Shardlake realizes may hold a threat after he uncovers some disturbing and potentially damaging information about his respectable employer.

Michael Spinella, reviewing Dissolution for Booklist, stated that Sansom's debut fiction "will not disappoint fans of historical fiction," while Toronto Globe and Mail Online contributor Margaret Cannon noted that the author's "great talent" brings to life the intrigue of pre-Elizabethan England "in all its squalor and fright." Laurel Bliss, in the Library Journal, criticized the author's storyline, noting that although "Sansom clearly harbors a deep affection for and knowledge of this historical period.…his novel is unrelentingly grim in tone." In contrast, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly complimented the novel, stating that "Sansom paints a vivid picture of the corruption that plagued England during the reign of Henry VIII, and the wry, rueful Shardlake is a memorable protagonist." Praising Dissolution as "cunningly plotted and darkly atmospheric," the contributor added that "Sansom proves himself to be a promising newcomer" in the historical fiction genre.



Booklist, April 1, 2003, Michael Spinella, review of Dissolution, p. 1382.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2003, review of Dissolution, p. 342.

Library Journal, April 1, 2003, Laurel Bliss, review of Dissolution, p. 130.

Publishers Weekly, March 17, 2003, review of Dissolution, p. 51.


Books 'n' Bytes Web site, (October 12, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of Dissolution.

Crime Time Web site, (October 12, 2003), Ingrid Yornstrand, review of Dissolution.

Globe and Mail Online, (August 30, 2003), Margaret Cannon, review of Dissolution.*