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Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake #2)

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  13,221 Ratings  ·  838 Reviews
It is 1540, 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 sudd
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Paperback, 501 pages
Published December 27th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published October 19th 2004)
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The Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Alienist by Caleb CarrThe Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónMistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Best Historical Mystery
22nd out of 1,314 books — 3,403 voters
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Best Books About Tudor England
24th out of 517 books — 1,351 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Bookworm Sean
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 mi ...more
Emma
Sep 11, 2016 Emma rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medieval, re-read
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 more 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 Sanso
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Lance Greenfield
Continual suspense


Matthew Shardlake has put the nerve-wracking episode of his investigations at Scarnsea Monastery behind him and is living the relatively quiet life of a London lawyer of the Tudor era. Suddenly, his peace is shattered. He is asked to defend a young lady who is accused of murdering her cousin, but refuses to speak to anyone, even Shardlake. A difficult task, and even more stressful because failing to plea when brought to court in those days resulted in a slow and agonising death
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Phrynne
Feb 08, 2015 Phrynne rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Morana Mazor
Jan 27, 2016 Morana Mazor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I još jedan odličan Sansomov roman! Moji su omiljeni žanrovi povijesni i trileri, a ovaj autor ih genijalno spaja. Radnja se događa u Engeskoj u doba Henrika VIII kada Mathew Shardlake, odvjetnik, rješava interesantne slučajeve kroz koje, uz uživanje u napetoj radnji, uživamo i u temeljitim opisima načina života, običaja, politike i nekih povijesnih ličnosti spomenutog razdoblja. S užitkom krećem na sljedeći roman ovog autora!
Paul
Sep 22, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
Pretty reasonable Tudor detective thriller; better than the first in the series in my opinion. Sansom is a historian and lawyer who has obviously combined his two passions. This one is set in the summer of 1540 at the time of the fall of Cromwell.
Shardlake, the hero/detective is an honest lawyer (there's an oxymoron if ever there was one!)and is a likeable character. There is none of the mean moodiness and complex personal life here; Shardlake is a 40 year old hunchback who is unmarried. He doe
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Stephen
3.5 stars. Solid sequel to the excellent Dissolution by C. J. Sansom. Not as enjoyable as the first book which is probably because having visited the world of Matthew Shardlake before, it wasn't quite as fresh or new as it was before. In addition, the mysteries involved in this installment were less compelling. That said, it was still a very good read and I will certainly be reading the next book in the series. Recommend.
Samantha
I loved this sequel even more than the first book in the series! The author's credentials as a lawyer with a PhD in history are evident in the complex, finely written story that he creates around Tudor era lawyer, Matthew Shardlake.

There is really no part of this book that I can disparage. The characters are multifaceted and realistic. I adore Matthew - he is clever and righteous but also insecure and modest. In this novel he is paired up perfectly with Jack Barak, who is young, courageous, and
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Jamie Collins
I enjoyed reading this, and I'll continue with the series. Sansom is a good writer and his characterization is excellent. I like Shardlake and his new sidekick Barak very much. The setting felt authentic and the author manages to include a lot of historical details without disrupting the narrative. But despite these excellent qualities I'm knocking it down to 3 stars because of a few serious flaws.

Both of the mysteries in this book are weak. The first involves a girl accused of murder, and the r
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Susan
Aug 06, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 H ...more
Marnie
C.J. Sansom is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and Matthew Shardlake one of my favorite characters. Lawyer Shardlake would prefer a quiet life but somehow he keeps finding himself in the midst of political intrigue. Thomas Cromwell, once again, forces my favorite hunchback to investigate a mythical weapon known as Greek Fire. I thought this sounded far fetched until I did an internet search and discovered that Greek Fire/ Dark Fire is thought to have existed.Sansom always doses his b ...more
John Wiltshire
Feb 26, 2015 John Wiltshire rated it it was amazing
The second in the Matthew Shardlake series, this is another triumph of writing and plotting. Somewhat recovered from his ordeal at the monastery from Book 1, Matthew once again gets embroiled in the politics of the realm when Cromwell sets him the task of discovering whether dark fire--the legendary secret weapon of the ancient world--has come to London.
(view spoiler)
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Angela
Jan 25, 2013 Angela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, mystery
Dark Fire, the second in the historical mystery series which has the hunchback lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, as the central character, is a triumph for its excellent author,C.J. Sansom .

This Tudor mystery is set in London in 1540. It is a time of change, when the great monastic establishments are being disbanded by order of Henry 8th and land is changing hands rapidly. Henry is married for the fourth time, his latest wife being Anne of Cleves, but he is completely dissatisfied with her. He lays th
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Caroline
May 26, 2015 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
This novel begins in a hot summer in 16th century London, and we are wonderfully immersed in the sensations of the city.

Against the ubiquitous heat, you get a fantastic impression of time and place. The dissolution of the monasteries....the dust and noise of buildings being pulled down, or re-deployed. Displaced monks having to re-invent themselves in other jobs and lifestyles. You also get a great sense of the fervid political shenanigans of the time, both at home and abroad, as Henry VIII shif
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Gavin
Dec 11, 2012 Gavin rated it it was amazing
This was recommended to me by someone who knew my taste for history and mystery. It could hardly have been more perfect.

Essentially a Tudor detective novel, the main character of Shardlake is a humble lawyer who finds himself entangled in a plot which could impact upon the whole of Europe. But this summary is so facile that I am tempted to delete it because it makes the book's contents sound trite. Sansom is the kind of author which makes you weep that neither you nor those you speak to have hea
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Nikki
If you want the conclusions of this book to be a surprise, you'd be best not knowing anything about British history. Several things are obvious from the start if you are. For that reason, in one way it's not as strong as Dissolution; on the other hand, weaving the plot into the political climate does make for interesting reading. I am finding these books kind of addictive: they have their flaws, but Matthew is a character you can root for -- and so was Barak, as the story went on. There are some ...more
Sam Piper
I wasn't that enamoured of this, second Shardlake book. I liked the fact that Sansom took us in a very different direction and allowed us to see Shardlake at home in London rather than in the confined claustrophobic abbey of Scarnsea. Unfortunately I didn't find his London convincing. Perhaps I have been spoiled by Dickens and Sarah Waters so that I was expecting to see, feel and experience the filth and squalor of Tudor England and, in fairness to Sansom, he mentions it... But I didn't feel he ...more
Bruce
Jun 28, 2016 Bruce added it
This second in Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series of crime novels finds the situation in 16th century London growing increasingly tense. His arrangement of the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves having proved to be a disaster, the position of Thomas Cromwell is increasingly precarious. He is seeking the clue to the reputed “Greek Fire” in order to restore his reputation with the King. The lawyer Shardlake, out of the public eye for the past few years, is called upon to defend a young woman ...more
Terri
Another fun read from C.J. Sansom. There's something about this series that captures my imagination. The two books of the series I have read so far have been lacking in vim and vigour (hence the 4 stars not 5), but I still enjoy them immensely as the author is very talented at presenting so vividly, a 16th century London to sink into. It is a time of Henry the 8th, Cromwell and the Dissolution and it makes a colourful background to the main characters crime solving adventures.
Helen
Dec 12, 2011 Helen rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
A wonderful, wonderful, wonderful historical fiction/mystery. Not quite as good as the first book in the series, Dissolution, only because this book is considerably longer and had a few subplots that were not quite a interesting. The main mystery was awesome and I loved the discussion of greek fire. I am very glad I found this series.
Kavita
This is the second book of the Mathew Shardlake series. Lush writing, rich descriptions and interesting plots make this book an amazing experience of travelling to London in 1540. Cromwell needs some work done and he calls on his old aide, Mathew Shardlake and sends an assistant to help him. In return, he provides extra time to one of Shardlake’s clients, accused of murder and facing a horrible death. The unlikely duo travel around London trying to solve two problems at the same time.

The two pl
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Ali
Aug 14, 2011 Ali rated it really liked it
This is the second installment to the very successful Shardlake series. I know the paperback version runs to over 500 pages, and yet it is a fairly quick read. The Tudor period is brilliantly re-created with all it's sounds sights and smells. They were bloody and treacherous times, and the plot twists come thick and fast. Mathew Shardlake may appear at times like a man out of the time in which he lives, an honorable, compassionate, just man, often suffering prejudice for being a hunchback. We me ...more
Leah
Feb 26, 2009 Leah rated it liked it
This book was ok as far as historical mysteries are concerned. It got pretty confusing and convoluted, there were more characters and suspects than necessary. And in the end, the bad guys end up being the people you dislike all along.

Still, it was fun to read about England in the 16th century. I learned all kinds of things that were pretty interesting. Like the fact that some women used nightshade (a poison!) to make their pupils wider because it was supposed to be sexy. The book takes place ab
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Bill
Sep 08, 2007 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes historical fiction
This is the second novel by C.J. Sansom, a former lawyer in the UK who also has a PhD in history. Matthew Shardlake, the lawyer protagonist, has hoped to stay away from mystery and danger, but Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's dependable enforcer, needs him to find the men who said they had discovered the secret of Greek Fire, a devastating ancient flamethrower used by the Byzantines against the Ottoman Turks and others. Cromwell's own position has become shaky because he arranged the marriage of He ...more
Anthony Ryan
Sep 19, 2014 Anthony Ryan rated it it was amazing
As a lifelong history buff and fan of crime fiction my discovery of the historical detective genre was something of a delight, and C. J. Sansom ranks alongside Steven Saylor as one of my favourite writers in the field. All the books in this series are excellent but this second outing for lawyer turned occasional detective Matthew Shardlake is my personal favourite. Intrigue, murder and alchemical science abound as Shardlake is compelled by an increasingly desperate Thomas Cromwell to seek out th ...more
Sandra Bašić
Mar 29, 2015 Sandra Bašić rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Opet odličan roman, drugi u nizu ovog fantastičnog autora. Nastavlja se priča o Engleskoj u doba vladavine Tudora, točnije Henrika VIII. i neprikosnovene moći njegovog ministra Cromwella. Zadatak Matthewa Shardlakea i njegovog novog pomoćnika Baraka je pronaći "crnu vatru", posebnu tekućinu koja u dodiru s izvorom vatre proždire sve pred sobom. Istovremeno, Matthew preuzima obranu djevojke kako bi je spasio od smrtne kazne. Do smjese je teško doći jer je navodno nestala i nije moguće napraviti n ...more
Tanja Berg
This book gets five stars for atmosphere, but the story is less enticing than in "Dissolution". Master Shardlake is sent across London to hunt for the lost Greek Fire. He discovers only death in its traces. At the same time he is trying to rescue a young girl accused of murder from the press as she refuses to plead. Original and interesting, but not top notch.
Frank Ryan
Nov 17, 2014 Frank Ryan rated it really liked it

Background is often key to a writer who produces an unusual and bestselling series of books.

This is the second book in C.J. Sansom’s excellent medieval mystery series, after Dissolution, which dealt with the selfish despoilation and destruction of the monasteries. It might help prospective readers to realise that Sansom was educated at Birmingham University (UK) and then took a PhD in history. Add this to some professional training as a solicitor (lawyer) and the fact he practiced law in Sussex
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Portia
Apr 24, 2016 Portia rated it really liked it
In this second book of his series, C. J. Sansome sets lawyer Matthew Shardelake against two dilemmas: saving a girl accused of murder from execution and discovering the source of the substance called Greek Fire. I learned from this book where the term "hard pressed" comes from. It is the same torture used on one of the accused witches in Salem in 1692, in which the accused has heavy stone piled on them until they either say what their tortureres want them to say or die. And we think waterboardin ...more
Karen maslen
Jan 29, 2012 Karen maslen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
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Christopher John "C.J." Sansom is an English writer of crime novels. He was born in 1952 and was educated at the University of Birmingham, where he took a BA and then a PhD in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he decided to retrain as a solicitor. He practised for a while in Sussex as a lawyer for the disadvantaged, before quitting in order to work full-time as a writer.
He came to promi
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More about C.J. Sansom...

Other Books in the Series

Matthew Shardlake (6 books)
  • Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake, #1)
  • Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake, #3)
  • Revelation (Matthew Shardlake, #4)
  • Heartstone (Matthew Shardlake, #5)
  • Lamentation (Matthew Shardlake, #6)

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“Man is an angry, savage being. Sometimes faith becomes an excuse for battle. It is no real faith then. In justifying their positions in the name of God, men silence God.” 2 likes
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