Hilary Mantel has won acclaim for Wolf Hall and Bring up The Bodies but I believe CJ Sansom to be the better author on the England of Henry V111. His latest Lamentation features Matthew Shardlake the chancery lawyer who appears in all of his 6 Henry v111 novels.
This features two story lines: the disappearance of a memoir of her faith by Queen Catherine Parr and a fractious litigation between brother and sister over a picture left in the will. There is also much back cloth of political and social life at the time. The theme that binds it all together is heresy. It’s hard for us to imagine in our secular society a time where heretics were denounced, charged and burned to death. However it was very much an issue in the latter years of Henry’s reign. On one hand were the reformers like the Parr family and the the Seymours, on the other The Duke of Norfolk and Bishop Gardiner that led the heresy hunt. It was feared that the book if in the hands of the conservatives would turn Henry against his Queen. Between the two camps were the operators like Richard Rich who bent with the wind.
There are also a colourful array of characters who appear in previous novels. Jack Barak is an enforcer that first worked for Cromwell, Guy Malton a physican but most of the characters actually existed . CJ Sansom does his research, he only produces a book a year. I have never heard him interviewed and he appears to be a recluse. His novels are always long. This is 600 pages but the plot and political and social details make for a most satisfying read. I suspect that if Sansom promoted himself more he would win the literary prizes but, like a many an author, he would rather concentrate on the business of writing which he does rather well.