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More murder mysteries in Tudor London....
Dark Fire - C.J. Sansom
Member Name: Gemma_C
Dark Fire - C.J. Sansom
Date: 02/09/09, updated on 02/09/09 (130 review reads)
Advantages: Just such a brilliant read that I could not put down.
Disadvantages: It had to end! I could have carried reading on about Shardlake..
Dark Fire is the 2nd book in the series staring ficitional character Shardlake, a hunchback lawyer in the time of Tudor England. I surprisingly enjoyed the first book in the series, Dissolution, I say surprised because the plot doesn't sound too exciting but the book itself was excellent. I certainly wasn't disappointed by this 2nd book.
Dark Fire is set 2 years after Dissolution and again we meet up with Shardlake, and the events of this book are set in London itself. Shardlake is helping a friend, Joseph who's niece, Elizabeth, is in jail accused of murdering her young cousin Ralph, a 9 year old boy. However, Joseph believes Elizabeth to be innocent and not a murderer... however she refuses to speak to anyone, not even plea in court. Joseph desperately calls on Shardlake for his help who soon feels as if all is not right with the story behind this murder and decides to take the case on to help Elizabeth before she faces the rack for refusing to plea. Suddenly however the judge decides to give Elizabeth 9 days to plea, Shardlake wonders at this sudden kindess and it's not long before the reason behind this is revealed.
Thomas Cromwell, whom we met in Dissolution as Shardlake worked closely with him, is back demanding Shardlake's service in return for him telling the judge to give Elizabeth those 9 days. Shardlake is annoyed with this as he has purposefully distanced himself from Cromwell since the events 2 years ago, but feels he has no choice but to do as he says. He is forced to work with an assistant of Cromwell known as Barak, whom Shardlake dislikes at first.
Cromwell is involving Shardlake and Barak in the mysteries surrounding something known as Greek Fire, a strange substance which sets alight easily and burns everything it touches quickly. Cromwell has seen a demonstration and means to bring this before the King in 9 days... however all is not well, and we're soon involved in yet more murder's set around the City.
I personally loved this book in comparison with Dissolution. Despite there being 2 different mysteries to solve, they were not hard to keep up with and I was eager to find out who is behind both. Shardlake seems to uncover new areas to investigate and you just don't want to put this book down, as it flows along nicely and has you guessing how it's all going to turn out, only to find out you're wrong, and there's more suspects to ponder over.
I was completely hooked with the storyline, and found some bits quite amusing! For example at one bit during the book they're struck by a mysterious clear substance which comes from the 'faraway snow lands' which burns the throat and makes you feel extremely drunk...
C. J. Sansom has wonderfully described Tudor London in this book, and it's a big reason why I preferred this to the first book which was set at a distant monastery. You can almost smell the stink of the City, and see the horrible waste and begging, along with the cramped and unpleasant housing in comparison to the houses of the more rich that he visits, with their large tapestries and tasty banquets. He has captured the fear of the time perfectly, people afraid to discuss religion as rumours are about that the King is looking to divorce Anne of Cleves and is courting Catherine Howard, so will he go back on his reformist ways? Of course we all know what happens concerning this, but I can imagine how this would have been the gossip of the moment.
This 2nd book has made me even more keen to read the next one in the series, Sovereign. I wouldn't say it's totally necessary to read the first book before this one, however I would say it helps as a couple of references are made to it and it helps you understand the character of Shardlake more. However if you did find the first book good or just average, you will certainly be impressed with this one as I believe it to be a far better book than Dissolution!
Summary: A brilliant 2nd book in the Shardlake series, even better than the first!