Monday, 29 August 2016

Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake Book 2) - C.J. Sansom

Title: Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake Book 2)
Author: C.J. Sansom
Genre: Historical Mystery
Published: 2004
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“Dark Fire” by C.J. Sansom is the 2nd novel in his “Matthew Shardlake” series of historical mystery novels. In this novel, the hunchback lawyer, Matthew Shardlake is asked to defend a young lady who is accused of murdering her cousin. The case is difficult enough but his client is also refusing to speak and if she doesn’t make a plea at court, she will be forced to face the “Press” which is a rather unpleasant torture device. However, he is soon offered a reprieve and is given two weeks to investigate the case on the proviso that he carries out a job for Lord Cromwell. Unfortunately, no job for Cromwell is without its own risks.

As with “Dissolution”, the previous book in the series I found this novel to be written in an intelligent and competent manner. The pace starts off quite slowly but as the story progresses the pacing picks up and it becomes harder and harder to put the book down. The description of 16th century London is also exquisite and I could easily envisage the Tudor world, both in look and culture. But what really worked here is that Sansom manages to showcase this period without getting distracted from the actual art of storytelling. It never feels dry or boring; I was quite simply entertained from start to finish.

The characters themselves are realistic and varied, with a level of depth that it is quite impressive. Shardlake himself has mellowed somewhat since the events of the first novel and despite some of his viewpoints still being outside the norm for a contemporary person, his intelligence, modesty and honesty will still endear him to the reader, especially when you consider the world in which he inhabits appears to be lacking in these values. I also loved his new acquaintance, John Barak, a brash young man who works for Cromwell and provides a wonderful partner for Shardlake. I really hope to see more of Barak in future novels as I look forward to seeing how his relationship with Shardlake develops.

Overall, I found this to be another enjoyable and interesting mystery novel that provides both an entertaining plotline and a vivid image of Tudor London. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series as I expect it to be just as entertaining as the previous two novels, but also because I am beginning to really love the characters of Shardlake and Barak and want to see how they further develop.


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