This book is one of the books about the lawyer, Matthew Shardlake and is set at the time that Henry VIII wanted to divorce Anne of Cleves in order to marry Katherine Howard.
This is an exciting story and keeps you turning the pages. Just one more page. Oh, alright, just one more chapter. There are so many twists and turns in the plot that you simply must keep on reading?
England, 1540: Matthew Shardlake, believing himself out of favour with Thomas Cromwell, is busy trying to maintain his legal practice and keep a low profile. But his involvement with a murder case, defending a girl accused of brutally murdering her young cousin, brings him once again into contact with the king’s chief minister – and a new assignment . . .
The secret of Greek Fire, the legendary substance with which the Byzantines destroyed the Arab navies, has been lost for centuries. Now an official of the Court of Augmentations has discovered the formula in the library of a dissolved London monastery. When Shardlake is sent to recover it, he finds the official and his alchemist brother horribly murdered – the formula has disappeared.
Now Shardlake must follow the trail of Greek Fire across Tudor London, while trying at the same time to prove his young client’s innocence. But very soon he discovers nothing is as it seems . . .
Shardlake has, in the past, done work for Thomas Cromwell, and in this tale Cromwell sends for him to investigate the discovery of a mysterious substance, supposedly the mythical Greek Fire. Cromwell has promised a demonstration to the king, but unfortunately, the said Greek Fire has gone missing.
Things political are moving against Thomas Cromwell. The powerful Duke of Norfolk, Katherine Howard’s uncle, wishes a return to Rome, and his star is rising. This demonstration of Greek Fire (the Dark Fire of the title) would help Cromwell regain his position. But there are mysteries within mysteries here, and a time limit to find the stuff before the day of the demonstration.
At the same time as this, Shardlake has taken on the defence of Elizabeth, accused of murder, but whom Shardlake and her uncle believe to be innocent. Again, there is a time limit before her execution.
Matthew Sharadlake is afflicted with a twisted spine, and this causes him, not only physical problems, but he also meets with prejudices from people around him. However, in spite of this, he overcomes his physical problems, and does not let them cause him to become bitter.
He does have human flaws, though, which bring him to life as a real person, and we feel we can relate to him, and like him. His wit and intelligence get him through most things.
There are also other characters in the book who are also well-drawn. The man whom Cromwell sets to act as a help and protector of Shardlake, Jack Barak, is a complex character who is both educated and streetwise.
I cannot go through all the many characters we meet in these pages, but all are well-drawn and realistic.
The writing is excellent. I think I only discovered one typo and not grammatical errors in the whole book. Quite a breath of fresh air. Even in many traditionally published books I often find many typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
The research on the history of the time, and what life was like is exempliary. We can almost smell the rotting vegetables and other things in the streets and understand the horrors of Newgate prison. And the heat of the summer almost has us sweating along with Shardlake and Barak.
We feel along with Shardlake all his emotions and pains.
This is definitely a book to read if you enjoy mysteries set in past ages. I would recommend it to people who like mysteries wherever set, and also to people who enjoy books set in historical times. Perhaps not if your preference is for Historical Romance, though. Not much of that.
I’ve given it 5*
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