This is CJ Sansom's time. Hot on the heels of the spectacular success of his Spanish Civil war novel, Winter in Madrid, and the growing popularity of his Tudor detective series comes a novel so good, so atmospheric, so engaging, I can still feel the disappointment of having finished it a full week after reaching The End.
And what better time to launch the fourth installment of the Matthew Shardlake series, Revelation. The viewing public has been awakened to the dramatic potential and historical intrigue of the Tudors by the eponymous series aired by the BBC to popular acclaim late in 2007 while Cate Blanchett's revival of Elizabeth will have stoked that particular fire.
With respect to those fine productions, however, nobody does the Tudors like Sansom a former lawyer who is resetting the standards for historical fiction with this series. (For those wishing to retrace Shardlake's footsteps the first three books are Dissolution, Dark Fire and Sovereign).
Revelation is the best of the lot, a truly marvellous book, broad in its ambition and scope, deep in historical detail with beautifully-crafted, convincing characters and a compelling plot full of highly satisfying twists and turns.
And Tudor London is brought to vivid, vibrant life in all its guises: dark and dangerous on the back streets, filthy and disease-ridden in the gutters, ripped apart by religious conflict and the political machinations of a corrupt and greedy court in thrall to an unpredictable and ailing King.
The religious turbulence dissected in Dissolution, is handled brilliantly here in Revelation, where a few years down the line from the closure of the monasteries and the break with Rome the conservatives, led by the Bishop of London, are back in the ascendant purging the tendencies of hard line reformers. A climate of suspicion and fear, exemplified by a crackdown on butchers alleged to have sold meat during Lent against royal decree, pervades every page creating a claustrophobic atmosphere that perfectly complements the sights and smells of a crowded, chaotic City.
And into this febrile atmosphere crashes that most modern of criminals, a serial killer. This one apparently with a religious bent, recreating one of the scenes of the final cruel and destructive book of the bible apparently copying the murderous example of the seven angels with their vials of wrath, each scene heralding a horrific and painful death.
Shardlake, who has settled back into the peaceful life of a lawyer as a newly-promoted Sergeant of the court, is reluctantly dragged into the horror when his colleague and friend Roger Elliard is found brutally murdered in a fountain in Lincoln's Inn. Shardlake promises his friend's widow that he will track down his murderer and he and his assistant Jack Barak rapidly find themselves in the political mire as they join the ongoing investigation being led by Archbishop Cranmer.
The King's favourite bishop is desperate to find the killer before word of the spree (which seems to be focused on religious reformers) reaches Henry, by now extraordinarily fat and unwell, and thereby risks his proposed marriage to Lady Catherine Parr, who is viewed by Cranmer as a strong potential ally in the quest for influence over the monarch.
This is an involved and complex web but Sansom does not shy away from difficult territory and the result is extraordinarily rewarding.
Revelation is crime-writing at its finest and historical fiction at its most sumptuous and Sansom is a lord and master of both arts.