The Shardlake novels – Dissolution, Dark Fire, Sovereign and Revelation – are relatively young for a crime series, yet old both in their setting (England in the 1540s) and their conformity to certain conventions of the crime genre. Our hero, Matthew Shardlake, is damaged physically, a hunchbacked lawyer, trained by priests but rejected – literally laughed out of the church when he articulates his aim to become a priest.

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