Dark Fire by C J Sansom
|Dark Fire by C J Sansom|
|Genre: Crime (Historical)|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: The second book in the Matthew Shardlake series is a murder mystery and a story of political intrigue - highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? es|
|Pages: 512||Date: May 2007|
|Publisher: Pan Books|
1540 was the hottest summer of the sixteenth century but Matthew Shardlake was doing his best to hold his legal practice together, which was made more difficult by the fact that he believed himself to be out of favour with Thomas Cromwell. He tried to keep a low profile but when he defended the accused in a most unpopular case – that of a girl accused of brutally murdering her cousin – he found that the king's chief minister had a new assignment for him. Unless he could solve Cromwell's problem his client was likely to die a slow and nasty death.
Cromwell's problem is Greek Fire, the legendary substance with which the Byzantines destroyed the Arab navies. Jack Barack has seen a demonstration and he knows just how impressive it is. Cromwell has told the king about it, but the problem is that the substance has disappeared. Shardlake's assignment is to find not just Dark Fire but also the formula - and all within a matter of days. Few things are as they seem though and Shardlake is worried about whether or not he would like to hand such a deadly weapon to Cromwell when the inevitable result is that an untold number of people will die. To make matters worse Cromwell's grasp on power is slipping.
The writing in this book is of such quality that you will feel and smell Tudor London. It's not written from specific research with every known fact shoe-horned in somewhere, but from a depth of knowledge that leaves you in no doubt that there's a lot more known, but not said. It's not just the intricate political situation which is understood, but the way that people lived and thought – and their limitations.
There's a brilliant murder mystery in there too. Why will the girl who's accused of murdering her cousin by pushing him down a well not plead her innocence – or guilt – or even speak at all? And why did the boy's body smell so dreadful? It's a dreadful pressure on Shardlake as he knows that he has limited time to find the Greek Fire and to work out what happened at the well. The pages turn themselves and it's a book that once you're into it there's no way that you can put it down.
For more of Tudor England we can recommend the brilliant Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.
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