Book Review: The Cromwell Enigma, A Tudor Mystery by Derek Wilson

Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: SPCK, Marylebone House
Pub date: 17 September 2020
Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

July 1540. The courts of Europe are stunned to hear that Henry VIII has executed his all-powerful minister, Thomas Cromwell.

Poet and classicist Nicholas Bourbon is sent from the cultured court of Queen Marguerite of Navarre to investigate. Thrust into a turbulent world of religious, political and personal rivalries, his travels take him far and wide. He endures perils at sea, incarceration in a monastic prison and poisonous intrigue in the Tudor court. Yet this retiring scholar cannot abandon a quest which steadily becomes an obsession, drawing him ever deeper into the beliefs and motivations of his mysterious quarry.

Only after facing many hazards does he discover the astonishing secret that unlocks the Cromwell enigma.

This Tudor mystery sees Nicholas Bourbon travel to England upon hearing of the fall and imprisonment of Thomas Cromwell. To Bourbon, Cromwell was something of an acquaintance, legend and as the title hints an enigma. Once he learns that Cromwell has in fact died a traitor he can’t help but try and uncover the mystery surrounding the man and his younger years.

This book follows the story of something I’m sure many of us would love to do, get to know Cromwell, what motivated him? Was it power? Religion? Or something else entirely?

Although Cromwell is dead his reputation is very much alive and not everyone wishes this to be so. His enquiries into Cromwell put Bourbon at risk not only of the wrath of Stephen Gardiner and Henry VIII but also put his life at risk as he travels from England to Antwerp to uncover Cromwell’s secrets.

Wilson seamlessly blends fact and fiction to create an engaging read delving in to Cromwells early life which is something I am very interested in. The dangers of religion in the era are depicted very well as are the vivid descriptives of London, Florence and Antwerp.

I liked this portrayal of Cromwell and it gives a sense of what may have made him the man he became from a common birth in Putney to one of the richest and most powerful men in the country.

I particularly enjoyed the excerpts from documents which are presented throughout but are placed in boxes so as not to take away from the story. For those interested in original sources these excerpts were a bonus to have included.

There is also a note at the end where Wilson discusses those individuals who are not fiction. This addition made interesting reading regarding who they actually were and what happened to them.

I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in the Tudor era and of course those who would like to learn about Cromwell.

Thank you to NetGalley and SPCK for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Cromwell Enigma is out on Thursday but can be preordered here

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

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