Book Review: Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom

Book 2 of the “Shardlake” Series.

Four years have passed since the events of “Dissolution” and now Matthew Shardlake – reluctant reformer – is feeling the heat of a very hot summer. He is feeling low, and believing himself now out of favour with Thomas Cromwell at court, is trying to make his business work.

After being presented with a case in which a young girl is accused of the brutal murder of her even younger cousin, he unexpectedly finds himself at the beckon call of Thomas Cromwell. It seems that a manuscript on how to create Greek fire was found in the library of a dissolved monastery then subsequently stolen from the government officials sent to retrieve it.

This is a much more complex tail than the first novel as Shardlake seeks to juggle two different cases at the same time. What is most interesting is how Shardlake observes the changes that the reformation has brought to his world and to his profession (one other lawyer comments that lawyers are the new monks: they wear robes and call each other “brother”) and the London of Shardlake’s world is lively and animated.

Everything about this is much bigger in scale: It is set in London rather than an isolated monastery, there is so much going on in the background and the plot is heavy yet engaging. Each complex little plot builds on top of the last and it is not one of those novels that is easy for the reader to figure out the mystery.

There is so much to appreciate about this book but I found it slightly less enjoyable; it wasn’t quite the page-turner that Dissolution was though it is clearly more substantial. Not a good idea to read this before the first.



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