Posted By Claire on January 30, 2015
Yes, if you’re a fan of Sansom’s Shardlake series, as I am, you will want to get hold of a copy of D.K. Wilson’s The First Horseman and the sequel The Traitor’s Mark. You may not have heard of D.K. Wilson, but if you’re a Tudor history buff you will have heard of Derek Wilson and I bet you have at least one of his books on your shelf.
The renowned Tudor historian who is responsible for books like In The Lion’s Court: Power, Ambition and Sudden Death in the Reign of Henry VIII and Hans Holbein: Portrait of an Unknown Man – both of which are in my bookcase and both of which I highly recommend – has turned his hand to historical fiction set in the reign of Henry VIII. Like Sansom, Wilson’s novels are inspired by real historical events and feature real historical people, but the main character is fictional. I think it works really well because it creates what historian Anthony Beevor recently referred to as a “distance” between the reader and history, enough of a distance for the reader not to be confused or to believe that what they are reading is accurate.
Wilson’s protagonist is Thomas Treviot, a London goldsmith whose friend, merchant Robert Packington, is murdered on his way to mass in Cheapside early one morning in 1536, just a few months after Queen Anne Boleyn’s execution. Treviot’s no detective, he’s a friend looking for answers and his search takes him from Cheapside to Antwerp, from the Southwark “stews” to the court of Henry VIII, and puts Treviot and those he loves in real danger
The crime really did happen, Packington was really shot to death and his killer was never brought to justice. Chronicler Edward Hall and martyrologist John Foxe both believed that Packington’s assassination was down to the Catholic clergy, and it was obviously arranged by someone with means (cash to pay an assassin) or with access to a handgun. Wilson brings this cold case to life beautifully in his novel, which is a gripping who-dunit. Like Sansom, Wilson has the skill to conjure up 16th century London, with all its sights and smells, in just a few words. I was instantly transported to Treviot’s world and I found it hard to put the book down. In his recent article for Tudor Life magazine, Wilson wrote “What I want to convey is something of what it may have felt like to live through these tumultuous months in the country’s history – months that changed England and began to hammer a new national identity on the anvil of violent conflict” and he has definitely achieved that. Treviot’s world is one divided by religion and one of rebellion. To say he is living in troubled times is an understatement and the novel really does give you an insight into what London was like then.
It’s a murder mystery, so Wilson obviously unveils the killer at the end. It’s historical fiction and he’s not saying that that is what really happened, but it’s an ending that satisfies the reader and it makes sense.
I am a busy lady, I have many, many books to read but the fact that once I had finished The First Horseman I ignored everything else in my “to read” pile and moved straight on to the sequel shows you just how gripped I was by Wilson’s story. If you can’t find me, I’m hiding in a dark corner and helping Thomas Treviot get to the bottom of Hans Holbein’s death!
Have I raved about it enough to get across how wonderful I think this novel is? I hope so. Get a hold of a copy and enjoy!
You can read Derek’s article about The First Horseman in the sample of Tudor Life magazine at www.tudorsociety.com/sneak-peek-february-2015-tudor-life-magazine/
1536. In the corrupt heart of Tudor London a killer waits in the shadows…
The Real Crime
Before dawn on a misty November morning in 1536, prominent mercer Robert Packington was gunned down as he crossed Cheapside on his way to early morning mass. It was the first assassination by handgun in the history of the capital and subsequently shook the city to its core.
The identity of his assassin has remained a mystery.
Thomas Treviot is a young London goldsmith and a close family friend of Robert Packington. Through his own upstanding social connections – and some less upstanding acquaintances he has made along the way – Thomas launches a dramatic investigation into Packington’s death.
As Thomas searches for revenge, he must travel from the golden heart of merchant London, to the straw-covered backstreets of London’s poorest districts before reaching the country’s seat of power: the court of King Henry VIII. Before long he is drawn into a dark conspiracy beyond his wildest imaginings and claiming justice for his friend starts to look impossible. Especially when Thomas realises that Robert wasn’t the man he thought he knew…
In the first of a new series investigating real unsolved Tudor crimes, D.K. Wilson brings the streets of Tudor London to spectacular life as Thomas Treviot faces a fight to bring the truth to light in the corrupt world of Anne Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII.