i have recently read This exciting historical novel again, which is Set in Tudor England during the turbulent reign of Henry VIII shortly after he forms the Church of England and parts ways with the Catholic Pope of Rome, Before divorcing Anne Boleyn, who parts ways with her head!? Having decided that the monasteries are all hotbeds of corruption and are getting rich whilst the parishioners are left to starve, King Henry tasks his Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell to remove all traces of idolatry, Roman Catholicism and dissolve all the monasteries in England.
To this end Cromwell dispatches emissaries to different Monasteries to shut them down. Among them is Commissioner Singleton who is sent to the Monastery of St. Donatus the Ascendent at Scarnsea on the Sussex Coast, to see if he can discover any financial irregularities or crimes of a more disturbing nature at scarnsea, and thus find a legitimate reason to close it down. Naturally when word of Commissioner Singleton’s true purpose emerges this does not go down too well with the monks who live there and shortly after arriving at Scarnsea Commissioner Singleton is found brutally decapitated and a Black Male Hen’s head is placed on the alter of the Monastic Church, causing some of the Monks to speculate that evil supernatural forces are at work at Scarnsea.
So lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Mark are dispatched to Scarnsea. At the Monastry they meet Abbott Fabian the Abbott of the Monastry, Brother Edwig the Bursar, Brother Gabriel the sacrist and Precentor, Brother Guy the Infirmarian, Brother Hugh the Chamberlain, Brother Jude the Pittancer, Brother Mortimus, the second in command, who is responsible for discipline at the Abbey and an embittered Carthusian Monk named Brother Jerome, who was taken in at St. Donatus after his own monastery fell victim to Cromwell’s purge.
At Scarnsea, Shardlake learns that Some of the monks have dark secrets and unsavoury pasts which they would rather remain hidden and have their own reasons for not wanting the Monastery closed down. Then Things take a turn for the worse when more people are found murdered including the Novice Monk Simon Whelplay, and Shardlake begins to suspect that more lives may be in jeopardy including his own, so he must hurry to discover the truth of what really happened at the monastery of St. Donatus the Ascendent. However as he makes his enquiries he begins to question his own vocation to Lord Cromwell and begins to suspect that Cromwell himself may not be the righteous force for good he makes out and may be slightly corrupt himself.