One of Sansom’s finest achievements is his exploration of memory. The privilege of hindsight is not denied to his characters, who reflect on the past as it is to them, distant and near, to make sense of their changing situation. Common law builds on custom and precedent. Shardlake reads Pliny and Plutarch as well as Erasmus and More, and daydreams about the Knights Templar worshipping in the Temple church as he wanders among their graves. Catherine Parr likes old coins: ‘They remind us we are but specks of dust amid the ages.’ Monasteries echo with what had seemed the eternal verities of their Norman founders. Scarnsea’s bells were old Spanish trophies; its best relic travelled from 11th-century France and before that from Ancient Rome. English towns and villages are haunted by the ghosts of disappeared charity and credit, and by spectres of hunger and rebellion, tales of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. All this weaving and unweaving of time is rich in historical purpose. At the end of Dissolution, Shardlake remarks that ‘uncovering complicated truths is never easy.’ But, like his creator, he’s pretty good at it.