Debut author Laura Shepherd-Robinson appeared at our 2019 Festival to talk about her novel Blood Sugar and the journey to becoming a writer. We invited Laura to share more about her literary inspirations with us in a series of guest blogs.

Books that inspired me to write #3: Dissolution

The best historical fiction, in my opinion, can only take place at the time in which it is set, and in which the setting is as integral to the plot as character and story. One book that certainly meets this standard is CJ Sansom’s first novel, Dissolution, which I read when it came out in 2003.

Set in a monastery in Tudor England, the hero Matthew Shardlake, a hunchback lawyer, is sent to investigate a murder at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. It is a masterclass in how to weave a locked room murder mystery in a confined, often claustrophobic setting.

CJ Sansom is such a good writer, but also so accessible. His prose is simple, but elegant. His research must be exhausting, but it is so lightly worn. You live his Tudor England, it is so immersive. But plot is where Sansom truly excels.

This book taught me so many of the basic lessons of crime writing: a narrow pool of suspects (nearly all monks, all different, all nursing secrets); weaving of plot and character; balancing interrogation, discovery and action; incorporating twists; and the importance of having the antagonist fight back.


Read more of Laura’s thoughts on Dissolution at her blog.

Find out about Laura’s other inspirations in her previous articles for Derby Book Festival on An Instance of the Fingerpost and The Quincunx.

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Derby Book Festival

29 May – 6 June 2020

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