Meanwhile, Shardlake is attempting to defend an old friend s niece, Elizabeth Wentworth, from a murder charge A charge she will not appeal against and remains silent Shardlake is losing the case when an offer of a reprieve of 2 weeks is made by Cromwell if he journeys to the monastery to secure the Greek Fire and make all necessary arrangements The multiple political, personal and professional forces at play in this story are incredible, and it is pulled off with excellent narrative accomplishment The story is totally captivating and full of tense threatening moments and competing forces that take politics and espionage to a deadly level And it just gets formidable when the two conspirators are found dead.
While the period at the Royal Court is one full of deception, high drama, treachery, intrigue and politics, this is transposed to the background of the case involving Matthew Shardlake and his companion Jack Barak Jack is physically capable and much aligned to the darker side of life in 1540 s England, while Matthew is almost the opposite as an astute, articulate and observant hunchback lawyer This makes for a great complementary team and it feels much better balanced than the partnership in the first book Dissolution The case is full of surprises and hurdles to negotiate that takes Shardlake and Barak to be permanently alert and call on all their reserves of resourcefulness.
Sansom provides a superb atmosphere for this novel involving sounds, terminology, smells, and dialogue, all of which transports you to that era The images and language of London are really interesting as we see it during its development to becoming a major city.
I would highly recommend this book and it is best read in the correct sequence of the series.
It Is , And Henry VIII Has Been On The Throne For Thirty One Years When 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 Again In The Dangerous Schemes Of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII S Feared Vicar General In Exchange For Two Weeks To Investigate The Murder, Shardlake Accepts Cromwell S Assignment To Find A Lost Cache Of Dark Fire, An Ancient Weapon Of Mass Destruction Cromwell, Out Of Favor Since Henry S Disastrous Marriage To Anne Of Cleves, Is Relying On Shardlake S Discovery To Save His Position At Court, Which Is Rife With Conspiracy 4.
5I cannot abide this fashion for women to blacken their teeth deliberately so people will think they live off nothing but fine sugar I agree It is not pretty I have heard them say the pains in their mouth are worth it, if people respect themTorture in Tudor England is nothing new, but I never heard of this self inflicted one to show you could afford sugar And here s another exchange between well to do teen aged girls and their grandmother who, ironically, is blind.
She passed a hand over her eyesGrandam,she said meekly,my vision is blurred Do I have to use the nightshade Belladonna is good, child By expanding your pupils, it makes you look comely But perhaps a smaller dose I looked at the old woman with distaste I had heard of drops of deadly nightshade being used in this way for cosmetic purposes, but it was poisonous stuff YIKES I m glad the use of both sugar and belladonna as cosmetic enhancements seem to have fallen into disfavour The various tortures the rack, heads on pikes are familiar from other books, althoughpeine forte et durepressing or crushing , was new to me That s the one our favourite lawyer is trying to save the teenaged niece of a friend from More later.
I wouldn t have lasted into adulthood in Tudor England This takes place in 1540, when Henry the Eighth is chafing under the yoke of another marriage, this to Anne of Cleves, arranged by his chief minister, Thomas Cromwell Now he s smitten with the 17 year old niece of Cromwell s enemy, the Duke of Norfolk, and he s ordered Cromwell to find a way to shed his wife.
Cromwell calls our favourite lawyer of the time, Matthew Shardlake back into harness Yokes and harnesses Well, it was a bit like that For anyone to survive back then, they needed a protector, and Cromwell was the most powerful in the land after the king This was like being asked by the Mafia to do them a favour a request you couldn t refuse.
Shardlake is investigating the guilt or innocence of the young girl in the death of her cousin when Cromwell orders him to find Greek Fire, a substance alleged to be the world s deadliest weapon it is also known as Dark Fire, hence the title of the book, and a dark time it would be for the world if it were to get into the hands of an army.
Cromwell needs something special to get back into the king s good books after the latest wife debacle , and he s counting on Shardlake to follow the rumoured trail of this mysterious substance to impress the king But there s a deadline, and it s about the same time as the court case for this poor girl who is languishing, dying, in prison in horrendous circumstances She won t speak, and if she doesn t speak soon, she will be crushed the sentence ofpeine et dure , a brutal death view spoiler She will lie on her back and they will lay heavy stones on her body over a period of time until eventually her spine is crushed hide spoiler Another case for Matthew Shardlake.
when an ageing and increasingly gout ridden Henry VIII is between Anne of Cleeves and Katherine Howard, wives 4 and 5, Thomas Cromwell once calls upon Shardlake to solve a case.
In paranoid times, England has no allies in Europe where once reformist fervour swept the nation, and not so long ago, the tides have turned and against Lord Cromwell Political chaos is the order of the day where intrigue and plots abound and where no one can be trusted.
CJ Sansom really knows how to conjure up the sights, sounds and smells of the largely lawless, sewage saturated streets of Tudor London The bear baiting, the violence, the boiled head on spikes on London Bridge.
it s all there for our delectation and delight.
In this story, I particularly liked the developing relationship between Shardlake and Barak, his and Cromwell s assistant namely the way he calls everyone he doesn t like an arsehole And once again, the discordant twang of heart strings snapping for poor Matthew Excellent read Next Continuing this Tudor era series, C.
J Sansom develops the foundation for what many will likely call a great set of historical mysteries Still jilted after an awkward investigation for Thomas Cromwell, Matthew Shardlake is happy to keep his legal practice running with a handful of clients However, when he is approached to defend Elizabeth Wentworth, Shardlake is not entirely sure he wants the case Wentworth is accused of killing her cousin by pushing him down a well, but will not enter a plea Rather, she stands silent, even when brought before the court With a torturous punishment for not entering a plea awaiting her, Shardlake tries to get Elizabeth Wentworth to at least utter two words, to no avail In a miraculous turn of events, the case reprieved temporarily by Thomas Cromwell himself, who seeks the assistance of his great investigator Unable to refuse, Shardlake makes his way to see the King s counsellor, learning that there is quite the scandal brewing During the dissolution of the monasteries over the past few years, someone has found a small collection of Greek fire a powerful weapon from centuries ago, so powerful that it is said to be able to burn on water Shardlake is sent to retrieve the instructions to make this weapon, so that it might be presented to Henry VIII after he sees its public display in the coming weeks Hesitantly, Shardlake agrees to act as emissary and makes his way to the countryside, where he discovers that the two brothers in possession of the Greek fire have been killed and their weapon is gone What should have been a quick turn of events has since opened into a cataclysmic panic While Shardlake and his newly assigned deputy scour the communities to locate not only the killer but this volatile weapon, his actual case takes on some interesting twists While it would seem that Elizabeth Wentworth s guilt was all but certain, Shardlake discovers something that could turn the case in her favour, but he needs to get her to speak From investigator to target, Shardlake must dodge an unknown killer and their wrath while keeping the knowledge of Greek fire a secret from the general population Even as things come to a head, major news comes from Court, something that could change England forever and leave many scrambling for cover Sansom delivers another winner in this complex thriller that never loses its momentum Lovers of Tudor history and mysteries will likely want to add this to their collection This is sure to be a wonderful series in the making, though it is a deeper and intricate type mystery than I am used to reading Steeped in history and developments of the time, C.
J Sansom educates as he entertains with a narrative that is full of nuances The story really kept my attention and I hoped to learn a lot about Matthew Shardlake The man may be simple in his desires, but Shardlake is far from basic in his presentation throughout the novel Humbled by his hunchback, Shardlake is forced to deflect many who feel he could never make a name for himself, let alone be a successful solicitor His attention to detail when it comes to the law is one thing, but Shardlake is happy to see many things that others miss when it comes to investigating, which creates a stronger and complex narrative for the reader One can presume that he is irritated at being constantly sought after by Thomas Cromwell, but there is surely a reason for this I can only hope that future adventures for Matthew Shardlake will be as detail oriented, as I am looking forward to learning much about the man and his development There are others whose presence throughout help enrich the story and keeps Shardlake from running away with the show These characters serve various purposes and one can only wonder if they will reappear in future stories, as Shardlake s interactions seem not yet finished Sansom has a wonderful way of weaving his characters into a curious tapestry and will not simply allow for minor appearances The novel is strong and well paced, set against English history during a time when nothing stayed the same for long Henry VIII is processing the demise of his fourth and trying to find a fifth wife, which proves to be an interesting backdrop for Tudor fans who are committed to this novel Sansom captures these intricacies while offering a stellar mystery to keep the reader enthralled I am eager that I gave the series another chance and want to find out where Sansom sees the story and his protagonist going in the next handful of novels Kudos, Mr Sansom, for a wonderful continuation to the series I have so much I want to learn and you keep me entertained throughoutThis book fulfills Topic 3 Elemental, My Dear, of the Equinox 7 Reading Challenge i Love hate the review An ever growing collection of others appears at Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge This is the second Shardlake novel, following on from Dissolution Shardlake finds himself embroiled in a complicated case, when a young girl called Elizabeth Wentworth is arrested for murder Her family, apart from her Uncle Joseph, all believe her guilty of the crime killing her cousin Ralph, the only son of her Uncle Edwin, whose London house she was living in However, Elizabeth refuses to plead, which means she faces the Press which was as bad as it sounds and has been thrown into the Hole as unpleasant as it sounds in Newgate Shardlake is convinced of her innocence, but seems destined to fail in his endeavour to save her until, suddenly, he is offered a reprieve Two weeks to investigate, as long as he carries out a little job for CromwellAn ancient weapon, little than a myth, Greek Fire, has been found in a former monastery The men who have this strange substance, capable of burning a ship in moments, want money to release the weapon to Cromwell He sends Shardlake to speak to them and make arrangements, but when he arrives the would be conspirators have been murdered Cromwell has promised King Henry an exhibition of Greek Fire in two weeks time, which leaves Shardlake two investigations to solve in only a few days Along with Jack Barak, Cromwell s loyal supporter, the two men embark on a race around London to find Greek Fire and help prove Elizabeth Wentworth s innocence.
London in 1540 is awash with rumours about King Henry said to be about to put aside Anne of Cleves a disastrous marriage he blames solely on Cromwell and to marry the young Catherine Howard With the Duke of Norfolk, Cromwell s enemy, possibly about to gain the King s ear, Cromwell cannot afford to fail and neither can Shardlake Unwillingly thrust again into politics and danger, Shardlake does his best, while his clients desert him, he is attacked, threatened and seems to be making enemies in high places.
Jack Barak is a much suitable sidekick than the young Mark Poer, who accompanied Shardlake in Dissolution He adds swagger and danger to the storyline brave, loyal and always willing to take a risk However, in this novel, even Shardlake s usually calm demeanour is thrown slightly, when he has to question the beautiful widow, Lady Honor With Shardlake suffering slights because of his hunchback, his friend the physician Guy first seen in Dissolution gaped at because of his dark skin and Jack Barak threatened due to his Jewish heritage, we see Tudor London not only through the politics of power, but through the eyes of outcasts This is a sublime series and Shardlake a brilliant fictional creation The next book in the series is Sovereign and, if possible, try to read the series from the beginning as it is wonderful to see how the characters develop over time.
Another excellent read in this fantastic series I thought I was getting a bit bored with historical fiction but there was nothing boring about Dark Fire Matthew Shardlake is such an interesting main character and he manages to gain a new assistant in this book who suits him admirably Not one but two mysteries running parallel kept the pace of the story going and I found the historical detail to be just right not too little or too much Now to find the time to read the next one I do love a good series
There were four or five illustrated manuscripts written by old monastic writers, giving vivid descriptions of the use of Greek Fire Sometimes they called it Flying Fire, sometimes the devil s tears, fire from the dragon s mouth, Dark Fire I puzzled over that last name How could fire be dark An odd image came into my head of black flames rising from black coals It was absurd A Byzantine ship uses Greek fire against a ship of the rebel, Thomas the Slav, 821 12th century illustration from the Madrid SkylitzesIt is 1540, and I won t tell you how significant that year is in English history To some, 1540 is not as big as others, but for someone who knows the impact of Thomas Cromwell on history, it is a year of major shifting in power Instead, I will focus your attention on a lawyer of modest, but reasonably wealthy meansMatthew Shardlake He will inadvertently be caught up in the events of 1540 because of his association with the second most powerful man in the landThomas Cromwell This is not by choice, but then choice, when it comes to powerful men, is really at the discretion of those with the power to allow it Cromwell has uses for Shardlake s investigative abilities, and to refuse his bidding is simply to be asking to be sent to the Tower of London in chains The stench of London is particularly odorific the summer of 1540 Men and women walk around the city with their noses buried in sprigs of flowers to keep from tossing their latest meal all over the soiled walkways Shardlake pines for his paintbrushes and a quiet life in the country, but he is not comfortable enough financially to feel he can retire When he takes the case of a young girl accused of pushing her cousin down a well, he has no idea how much trouble he is placing on his crooked shoulders He is, as you should know, a hunchback The girl won t talk, insolent wench, and the court intends to place a sharp rock under her back and place a door on top of her They will pile rocks on top of the door until the pressure is great enough to break her back How do humans think of such cruel implements of torture Cromwell needs Shardlake s help and knows the best way to leverage him is to assist him to help someone else Cromwell, with some not so subtle pressure put on the judge, spares the girl for two weeks Meanwhile, Shardlake needs to find the formula for Greek Fire In 672, Greek Fire was the Atom Bomb of its day The Eastern Roman Byzantine Empire used pressurized nozzles to shoot the burning liquid onto ships, which not only burned the ships, but continued to burn on the surface of the water What hellfire was this The secret was closely guarded, so closely that the formula for making it was lost for between 1500 to 2000 years But now a demonstration of its power has been shown in London Cromwell, besieged by his enemies, knows he can save himself if he can give Greek Fire to King Henry VIII Needless to say, there is much pressure put on Shardlake, including the addition of an assigned helper named Barak whose loyalty to Cromwell is unquestionable The problem is Shardlake doesn t think anyone should have the formula, least of all Henry VIIIYes, all power is with the House of Tudor now Yet is it not hard to take seriously, the king as head of the Church deciding how his people should relate to God, when his policy is ruled by his fickle passionsThe lovely Lady Honor might be talking about religion, but Henry s fickleness extends to all levels of his government The only person keeping some semblance of order is Thomas Cromwell Henry VIII is pissed off at Cromwell over the arranged marriage with Anne of ClevesAnd now the Duke of Norfolk s dangling his niece before the king, schooled her to catch his fancy Catherine Howard is pretty, not yet seventeen, and he s caught He drools over her like an old dog over a fine joint of meat and blames me for saddling him with the Cleves mareDouble Shudder Too much dangling and drooling Catherine Howard, the bait Here, you Arrogant Prick Here, pricky, pricky Try to poke the teenager.
Shardlake finds himself investigating a branded whore, The W stood out clearly in the dim light ashes would have been rubbed into the burn to ensure the mark never faded, as well as the Lady Honor from one of the oldest families in London The absolute lowest class of society intersects with the highest levels as Greek Fire becomes a hot issue, too incendiary to hold on to Mixed in with all the secrets and the treacheries surrounding the formula, Matthew is still trying to find out what exactly happened with the girl and the well Something is rotten in that family, and only discovering the source of the smell will finally lead to the truth I can t say why, but I have an odd affinity for Matthew Shardlake I don t know if it is his misfortune being born with a deformed back or the fact that he has overcome all obstacles to become a successful barrister, but when things go wrong for him, I, at several points in the story, felt the pinpricks of tears at the corners of my eyes He takes such chances, like when he woos the Lady Honor and dares to hope she will return his attentionsPerhaps you are a man of too gentle feeling to deal with blood and death She smiled softly As I told you last week, I am a mere jobbing lawyer She shook her head, smiling No, you are than that I thought so when I first saw you She inclined her head, then said, I felt your whole being resound with sadness Certainly, Matthew Shardlake is a man of uncommon courage He is hunted, harassed, nearly killed, and still he marches on trying to produce some good results in a world that seems to be dominated by evil intentions Kudos to C J Sansom I thought this book was even better than his first one I can t wait to get a chance to dig into the third one Sovereign If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at I m really starting to warm to Matthew Shardlake He s a great character, and a perfect investigator he is compassionate and clever he is brave and realistic in his approach to his ginormous tasks He is really aware of himself and those around him He s a hunchback he s an outcast and a figure for ridicule But, he doesn t let it get the best of him Sometimes his rage at the narrow minded injustice he is subjected to is ready to spill over, though he controls it He uses his scholar like mind to rise above his enemies However, he s in physical danger too Cromwell has granted him an assistant for this mission he needs him too because this is dangerous work Jack Barrak is young, rough and tough He serves as a body guard to Shardlake s cultivated mindI saw myself as he must have, a hey faced hunchback lawyer in black robe and cap, a pencase and dagger at my belt instead of a sword.
Despite their differences, the two achieve wonders together I love the intertwining of cases one is no longer enough for Shardlake Whist preparing a defence for a girl accused of murdering her young cousin, Shardlake receives an ominous summon from his former benefactor Thomas Cromwell Cromwell also has an investigation for him, a important one He is tasked with finding the deadly weapon known as Greek fire Cromwell believes the recovery of such a dark weapon will regain him the favour of Henry VIII after the disastrous Cleaves marriage Shardlake has no choice but to take on the assignment as he dare not anger the ruthless Lord Chancellor So, poor Shardlake is thrown into the risky world of Tudor politics I really pity him Dark Fire or Greek fire, as it is most commonly known, can burn through anything and even remains ablaze on water It s kind of like Wildfire form A Clash of Kings If Henry VIII had a supply of it, his power would grow on both land and sea It s no wonder Cromwell wants to give it to his King The only problem is the people who were tasked with reproducing it have been murdered, their supply stolen, and the culprits behind it are completely unknown Shardlake has a very cold trail to follow, one that eventually leads him to grimy places Handling this is almost too much for him, I think the only reason he manages any form of success is because he knows what would await him should he fail Cromwell has no mercy This threat really drives the story to its completion Cromwell from The TudorsIt s a miracle Shardlake even has time to sleep in the novel With two massive investigations on his mind, and exactly nine days to solve them both, he has little time to think beyond there resolution The Dark Fire case has larger consequences, but the murder investigation is no easier to solve and it touches Shardlake s humanity deeper than Cromwell s plight He s torn between his work and his humanity His compassion is gripped by the girl who refuses to say a word to the crime she witnessed Getting her to talk is no easy task, but Shardlake knows that only she has the answers The intertwining of two separate cases works extraordinarily well When there is a lull in the investigation of one not that there were many the other picks up This results in a plot that rarely slowed down, and a book that is a fantastic instalment in the series Tudor England was brought to life in these pages I hope each of Shardlake s investigations are as good as the last Matthew Shardlake Series1 Dissolution A suspense filled four stars.
2 Dark Fire A dark 3.