This is the second in the Matthew Shardlake mystery series, and I loved it! I have put off reading these because I was just Tudored out. But a few years have gone by and I have come back to the time period, but I will avoid anything directly to do with any of Henrys queens. Anyhow
Cromwells career is in jeopardy, and Shardlake is no longer in favor.
What I liked: I like Shardlake, a good man in a system so archaic and damaged by corruption, that it seems there is no such thing as justice. I love the cast of characters, his new side kick is one of Cromwells men and I he makes me laugh. Sansoms a master at drawing complex characters. The story is beautifully woven within real events.
What I didnt like. I think that most people get that 16th century London was filthy, but the descriptions of it gets a bit tiresome. Still 5 stars!
For those listening to the audio book, Steven Crossley is wonderful his characterizations are spot on.
This is the 2nd in the Matthew Shardlake series. I find these books to be very well researched and the "mystery" portion to keep one guessing. It has been a nice re-education for me concerning the Reformation years in England under the rule of Henry VIII.
First Line: I had left my house in Chancery Lane early, to go to the Guildhall to discuss a case in which I was acting for the City Council.
Lawyer Matthew Shardlake may have too many irons in the fire. His scribe can't seem to do anything right, and not having the documents he needs when he needs them makes Shardlake grumpy. A friend's young niece has been accused of murder and is facing a death sentence. Even though the young girl refuses to speak, after visiting her in prison,Matthew believes she's innocent. However, before he can mount any sort of defense for her, Henry VIII's vicar general, Thomas Cromwell, postpones the trial in order for Shardlake to track down a cache of and the recipe for "dark fire"-- the liquid weapon of mass destruction dating from the time of the Greeks-- that Cromwell has promised to a very irritable king.
With the help of one of Cromwell's trusted servants, Shardlake finds himself traveling all over London tracking down clues-- interviewing alchemists, aristocrats and lawyers alike. Not only that-- he also finds himself trying to avoid the assassins who seem intent on killing everyone who's ever heard of the elusive "dark fire".
I read the first book in this series shortly after it was published and for the most part I loved it. The only real quibble I had was that the main character, Matthew Shardlake, whined too much about his hunchback keeping him from scoring with the babe of his choice. Yes, his affliction would be a tough one to bear, especially during that era, but I come from a long line of people who do not believe in whining. (And from their devotion to that rule, I have to believe that it's been in place for a few centuries.) Be that as it may, Shardlake scarcely whines at all in Dark Fire, and I appreciated that.
Shardlake is a fully fleshed character. He's a sharp, intelligent lawyer. He can circumnavigate the dangerous circles that do the king's bidding. He's a genuinely caring person-- even though he's blind to those around him at times.
The magic starts to happen when a character like Shardlake is put in charge of solving two very complicated puzzles in the fantastically rich and treacherous tapestry of Henry VIII's London. Sansom's character is a lawyer with his normal caseload, but he's also worked for the government during the dissolution of the monasteries and in other projects for the king. Shardlake can ride through the streets of London and see how the city has changed. He can tell us of these changes-- and the reasons for them-- without it sounding like a history lesson. He's merely commenting on the passing scenery. If you're not familiar with Tudor England, you're learning and enjoying; if you are familiar with it, you sigh with satisfaction and sink deeper into the story.
Although this is the second book in this series, you don't need to read the first to be able to make sense of everything in Dark Fire. So... if you enjoy rich, meaty, multi-layered historical mysteries with excellent characterization and plotting, by all means make the acquaintance of Matthew Shardlake!
Matthew Shardlake, hunchback barrister and top notch investigator, is commissioned by Thomas Cromwell to investigate the discovery of Greek fire. At the same time Shardlake must defend a young girl wrongly accused of murder amid political turmoil that may spell the end for Cromwell and ultimate Shardlake himself. Another great 16th century murder mystery from Sansom. Though only his second novel, Sansom is becoming one of my favorite historical fiction writers.
A turbulent time in England and Lord Cromwell has called upon Matthew Shardlake to help him in a most urgent matter that may maintain his favor with the king. Who can you trust in such uncertain times?
Anyone remotely familiar with Henry VIII and his desperation for an heir knows the end result, but C.J. Sansom has spun a believable tale that is engaging and keeps you involved right up to the end.
Second installment in the adventures of Matthew Shardlake, a hunchbacked attorney in the time of Henry VIII. A very sympathetic hero, an intriguing mystery, and of course the background of Thomas Cromwell's shenanigans in the service of the king.