In the 1530s, Thomas Cromwell, working for a surly King Henry, is in battle with the Roman Catholic church. The Pope’s monasteries have dominated rural life for centuries and his monks have grown fat and lazy with largesse, corruption, and sexual misconduct. Henry, wanting to solidify power for the throne, and wrest it from Rome, seeks the dissolution of the monasteries. Enter CJ Sansom with a fictional account of the debauchery and demise of one such house of worship. Cromwell sends his chief commissioner, Shardlake, a hunchbacked, middle-aged lawyer to investigate a murder. Only thing is the story moves as slowly as a cripple riding a horse through a snowstorm, which is more or less how the story begins. Not only is the tale telling tedious, but almost none of the characters are likable. Shardlake is a supercilious, self-righteous prig and everyone else is suspected of murderer. On the up side I did learn a lot about life inside a medieval monastery, how the British reformation played out as only one more power play among elites, and how religious doctrine when taken to extremes can be so insidious. No surprise there to learn that religious fanatics can become lunatics and that power corrupts.