July 30, 2015

Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom

Title:  Dark Fire
Author:  C. J. Sansom
Pages:  503
Genre:  Mystery, Historical
Publisher:  Viking, 2004

Synopsis:  It is 1540, and Matthew Shardlake, the lawyer renowned as "the sharpest hunchback in the courts of England," is pressed to help a friend’s young niece who is charged with murder. Despite threats of torture and death by the rack, the girl is inexplicably silent. Shardlake is about to lose her case when he is suddenly granted a reprieve—one that will ensnare him in the dangerous schemes of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s feared vicar-general.

In exchange for two more weeks to investigate the murder, Shardlake accepts Cromwell’s dangerous assignment to find a lost cache of "dark fire," a legendary weapon of mass destruction. Cromwell, out of favor since Henry’s disastrous marriage to Anne of Cleves, is relying on Shardlake to save his position at court, which is rife with treasonous conspiracies.

Review:  Another delicious mystery starring Dr. Shardlake.  This one is set in London itself and surrounds a missing recipe for Greek Fire and a string of murders, with an equally important story about a young girl accused of a murder she did not commit.  If possible, the city is even more horrible and sad and disgusting than the monastery was.  The justice system seems so completely unfair and random, I'm surprised anyone survived the time period.  I had some inkling of who had framed Elizabeth and who was spying on our heroes, but for the most part I had no idea who was actually to blame for what.  Great stuff.

Dr. Shardlake has a new assistant, Barak, who is low-class, foul-mouthed and generally completely enjoyable.  I liked this book just as well as I did the last one, maybe even a bit more because of the addition of Barak.  The Moorish monk, Guy, from the last story, has become an apothecary in London and one of Dr. Shardlake's most trusted friends.  His dry wit and intelligent insights are another refreshing plus for this tale.

But, I think I'll stop now and read the other two another time.  Don't want to get too much of a good thing and get bored with it.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

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