Dark Fire – C. J. Sansom

I read a lot of Ellis Peters as a teenager, but this is the first historical crime fiction I’ve picked up for a while. There were a bunch of good reviews of the latest Matthew Shardlake novel, Revelation and when I spotted this in the most recent book sale in St Giles church, it was a obvious purchase.

Set in Tudor London in the latter years of Henry VIII’s reign our hero, hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake, is called upon once more by Thomas Cromwell, this time to track down a recently unearthed barrel of Greek Fire. In return, Cromwell gives a fortnight’s reprieve to Elizabeth Wentworth, the neice of a former client of Shardlake who stands accused of murdering her cousin. Accompanied by one of Cromwell’s thugs for hire, the plot takes us through the murky streets and waterways of London in a race against time – if Shardlake cannot establish Elizabeth’s innocence she will be pressed to death, and if Cromwell cannot demonstrate Greek Fire to the King his period as the second most powerful man in the land will end – and the balance of power will swing back to the Catholic Howard clan.

A very enjoyable read, with plenty of period detail particularly in the religious upheaval wrought by Reformation and the uncertainty that prevailed as a result.

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