C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake books in order

Now a major Disney+ original TV series, read on for everything you need to know about the Shardlake series, written by C. J. Sansom. 

Following lawyer Matthew Shardlake as he solves crimes and navigates Tudor England, C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake books earned him legions of fans and won multiple awards in the twenty years following the publication of the first novel, Dissolution.

Meticulously researched by author C. J. Sansom, each of the books in the series sees Matthew Shardlake, a man with a keen sense of justice, investigating grisly murders and mysteries against a backdrop of a Tudor London awash with treason and treachery. Beginning in 1537 during Henry VIII’s reign, and continuing until 1549 with England in chaos and the young King Edward VI on the throne, the Shardlake books offer a vivid portrait of life in the tumultuous upper echelons of English society during the sixteenth century.

Fans of the Shardlake series can now see it come to life on screen in a new four-part TV series. Starring Arthur Hughes in the titular role and Sean Bean as Thomas Cromwell, series one of Shardlake has been adapted from the novel Dissolution and is now available on Disney+.

While they can be enjoyed as standalone novels, as the Shardlake series is written chronologically, with many recurring characters, we’d recommend starting with Dissolution and reading the books in order to fully immerse yourself in the series’ Tudor setting. 

C. J. Sansom sadly died in April 2024. You can read more about him here.

C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake books in order


by C. J. Sansom

Working for Thomas Cromwell, minister to King Henry VIII and one of the leaders of the Reformist movement, lawyer Matthew Shardlake is no stranger to the tensions between church and state in England in 1537. So when a commissioner, sent to shut down a Sussex monastery by order of the crown, is found brutally murdered, Shardlake is ordered by Cromwell to find the killer. Treated with suspicion by the monks of Scarnsea, Shardlake vows to find the perpetrator. But, in doing so, he’s forced to question everything and everyone he knows. 

Dark Fire

by C. J. Sansom

Matthew Shardlake has his hands full. Balancing property disputes with the case of a young woman accused of murder, he barely has time to worry about whether he has fallen out of favour with Thomas Cromwell. But, when the minister tasks him with finding the mysterious formula for Greek Fire, an ancient warfare secret lost for centuries, Shardlake can’t refuse. As he arrives at the monastery claiming to house the secret, he instead discovers a scene of grisly murder. Once again, Shardlake finds himself at the heart of a case he’s compelled to solve. 


by C. J. Sansom

York, Autumn 1541. Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak travel to the city ahead of the arrival of King Henry VIII, who embarks on a Progress to the North to quash dissent against his rule. Originally tasked with managing legal work and petitions to the King, Matthew and Jack reluctantly take on the role of keeping a dangerous prisoner safe while he awaits trial in York Castle. When a local man with a mysterious connection to the prisoner is found murdered, the pair realise that their charge has ties to the royal family and the stakes are raised. Thrilling, page-turning and utterly unpredictable, Sovereign is the third book in C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake series. 


by C. J. Sansom

Matthew Shardlake faces his toughest case yet in Revelation, the fourth book in the Shardlake series. As King Henry VIII plans to marry his sixth wife, Lady Catherine Parr, Shardlake is working on the case of a teenage boy thrown in Bedlam for his religious fanaticism. When he is approached by the widow of a friend who has been shockingly murdered, he promises to bring the killer to justice. As he becomes more embroiled in the case the clues lead Shardlake to Catherine Parr, the book of Revelation, and a series of horrific murders which seem to have been committed by the same hand. 


by C. J. Sansom

After Henry VIII invades France in 1545, England is at war and on the brink of economic ruin. As the King gathers the largest militia the country has ever seen, Matthew Shardlake is investigating a case for an old servant of Henry’s wife, Queen Catherine Parr. Travelling down to Portsmouth, Shardlake and Barak look into the ill-treatment of a young ward of the court and the case of another young woman who died in mysterious circumstances two decades prior. When their investigations lead them to the ship at the heart of the war preparations, Shardlake finds himself face-to-face with both an old friend and an old enemy. 


by C. J. Sansom

With Henry VIII’s death imminent, Tudor England is on the precipice of change, with one woman holding the keys to its future. As the King’s Catholic and Protestant councillors fight for the right to control the government once it is taken over by Henry’s son, Prince Edward, then just eight years old, Matthew Shardlake is working on his biggest case yet. Queen Catherine Parr confides in him that a book she wrote in secret with a radically Protestant message has gone missing from her private chest and compels him to find it. As the country's future hangs in the balance, Shardlake and Jack Barak find themselves in the backstreets of London and the royal courts of Whitehall searching for the precious missing pages.


by C. J. Sansom

With eleven-year-old Edward VI on the throne, and his Uncle Edward Seymour acting as Protector, England is at crisis point. The war in Scotland is threatening financial ruin and the peasants are ready to rebel. Working for Henry VIII’s youngest daughter Elizabeth to investigate the murder of a distant relative of her mother’s in Norwich, Matthew Shardlake can see that the country is on the brink of disaster. Finding himself in a city under siege by rebels, he is forced to confront where his loyalties truly lie. 

The seventh and most recent novel in the Shardlake series, Tombland wasn’t conceived as the final book. C. J. Sansom was working on the eighth novel, Ratcliff, when he died in April 2024.

Standalone books by C. J. Sansom

Winter in Madrid

by C. J. Sansom

Madrid, 1940. A city ravaged by the Spanish Civil War, full of starving people who fear what the future of Franco’s regime will hold for them. When Harry Brett, a British soldier turned reluctant spy is sent to the city to investigate his old school friend Sandy Forsyth, he soon finds himself surrounded by danger. While Harry is embroiled in old memories, Sandy’s girlfriend embarks on her own quest to find her former Communist lover who has vanished without a trace during the war. A taut historical thriller, Winter in Madrid is a must-read. 


by C. J. Sansom

In Dominion, C. J. Sansom asks: what might have happened to Britain if they had surrendered to the Germans during the Second World War? 

As the Nazis tighten their grip on Britain, the country finds itself under ever-darker authoritarian rule. Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, a secret spy for the ever-growing British resistance, hatches a plan to break his old friend scientist Frank Muncaster out of the mental hospital the Gestapo has incarcerated in him. As the grip on the press, radio and media is ever tightened, and life for British Jews becomes more and more unbearable, will the resistance be able to fight back and regain the country’s freedom?