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C.J. Sansom, Mystery Novelist Drawn to Tudor England, Dies at 71

“Oh, goody! An 800-page novel about the peasant uprisings of 1549!” Marilyn Stasio, the longtime mystery and crime reviewer for The New York Times Book Review, began a column in 2019.

It was an assessment of “Tombland,” the seventh work of historical fiction by C.J. Sansom to feature Matthew Shardlake, a hunchbacked lawyer-turned-detective whose exploits solving chilling murders in Tudor England come steeped in suspense and granular historical detail. Readers are made privy to the court intrigues of Thomas Cromwell and King Henry VIII, eavesdrop on women arguing in a market stall, and inhale the stench of London streets.

Ms. Stasio’s enthusiasm was real, not snarky. “Sansom describes 16th-century events in the crisply realistic style of someone watching them transpire right outside his window,” she wrote.

Mr. Sansom, who earned a Ph.D. in history and a law degree before turning to writing in his late 40s, quickly becoming one of Britain’s most popular historical novelists, died of cancer in hospice care on April 27. He was 71.

His death was announced by his publisher, Pan Macmillan, which did not say where he died. In 2012, Mr. Sansom disclosed that he had multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, but said it was in remission after treatment. The disease returned during his work on “Tombland,” forcing him to quit writing for six months. He eventually resumed working two hours a day and finished the book, his last to be published.

“Sansom describes 16th-century events in the crisply realistic style of someone watching them transpire right outside his window,” a Times critic wrote in 2019 in reviewing Mr. Sansom’s seventh Shardlake novel. Credit…Mulholland Books

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