Heartstone is the 5th Mathew Shardlake mystery by Sansom. Set in the summer of 1545, when Henry VIII is building up his maritime navy. Queen Catherine Parr has an old lady servant who’s son dies mysteriously and who divulged to his mother a concern for a brother and sister who he used to tutor. They have been made Wards of Court and are now living with their father’s business partner and family.
Shardlake is summoned by Queen Catherine to investigate the well being of the orphans. He travels with his man servant Barak to the Portsmouth area to investigate this legal case. Many are travelling the same road as the King is building up forces in case of a French invasion. Some of the travellers are the famous long bowmen archers and are very skilled.
Eventually they arrive at Hoyland Priory to investigate the welfare of the children. The girl has died and there is only the boy to check on his welfare. What has happened to his inheritance?
Great detail is gone into as to how the Wards of Court arose, how it was administered and what a money making racket it was. Quite fascinating because it touches on the whole Bleak House, Charles Dickens characters who were Wards of Court. An institution which went on for hundreds of years once it was established.
The whole mystery ends with the sinking of the famous Mary Rose.
I enjoyed the history I learned about the Wards of Court.
I’ve only read two Mathew Sharlake mysteries, but enjoyed Dissolution more.