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The Ashes of London

(Marwood and Lovett #1)

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  3,760 ratings  ·  524 reviews
From the No.1 best-selling author of The American Boy and The Silent Boy comes a brand new historical thriller set during the time of the Great Fire of London. The first of an exciting new series of novels.

London, September 1666. The Great Fire rages through the city, consuming everything in its path. Even the impregnable cathedral of St. Paul’s is engulfed in flames and r
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published April 7th 2016 by HarperCollins UK
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Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Ashes and ruins”, desolation, sorrow and grief, death, homelessness and hunger, as well as attacks on foreigners are some of the aftermath of the Great Fire of London in 1666. Following on the heels of the Great Plague of London in 1665, the Great Fire struck another deadly blow to the citizens of London. It reputedly started in a baker's shop in Pudding Lane on Sunday, 2nd September, 1666 and soon spread, lasting several days and consuming thousands of houses, as well as many warehouses holdin ...more
Reading Corner
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaway, dnf
Thanks so much to Killer Reads for sending this one out,as part of a Goodreads giveaway but I just couldn't finish this one.I really wanted to but I couldn't force myself to pick the book back up.I'm a massive fan of historical fiction but this one just wasn't for me as it was not what I expected.

It centres around the London fires and an unexpected body that turns up which clearly has been killed.I thought the story sounded intriguing but it was a different story when I began reading it.I felt t
Nov 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss, reviewed
I liked the historical details in this book involving the aftermath of the great fire in London in 1666, but I felt that the book was missing a compelling central mystery and it all seemed rather pointless.

The story followed two characters whose lives intersected at various points in the book. James Marwood held a junior clerk position which barely enabled him to support himself and his father who was developing dementia. His father had been involved in a conspiracy to murder the King and was i
Jul 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
My first trip into the world of Andrew Taylor’s historical fiction was sure to be exciting. The cover and title drew me in while I was walking through the library on one occasion and I could not wait to see if it lived up to my expectations. It’s September of 1666 and London is burning! The Great Fire has begun sweeping through the city and people are dying en masse. Smoke and ash pepper various streets, including the massive structure of St. Paul’s Cathedral, thought to be impregnable. Amongst ...more
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this even though it was pretty slow going and there wasn’t too much of a story! The main characters were fairly sketchily portrayed and hard to rout for. So how can this be you ask..well..I loved all the historical details. I’ve read a little around the Restoration period so know the basic timeline, but it all made so much more sense within the context of the fire of London- the scrabbling for funds to start clearing up and rebuilding London; the competition for contracts to red ...more
Sep 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
A "historical novel" set in 1666. About a Scotland Yard "detective". Scotland Yard and public policing in England by the way were instituted in 1829 through the Metropolitan Police Act. Prior to that law enforcement was haphazard and duties performed partially by community watchmen, partially by King's constables. While Taylor writes well, and as fascinating as I may find the setting - whatever merits this story may have had are entirely eclipsed by the glaring historical inconsistencies and ana ...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Apr 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned

The writing was bland, I got no real sense of 1666, the characterization was flat, and we had two protagonists, who had no real connection to each other. I wasn't particularly interested in either of them. For a supposed mystery, getting over 10% through without even a hint of a dead body, or some other crime to investigate, was a very leisurely pace. And then (view spoiler)
Ive given this a B+ at AAR, so that's 4.5 stars.

The Ashes of London is an absorbing, intricately plotted historical mystery set in Restoration London in the aftermath of the Great Fire; indeed the book opens with one of the main characters – lowly clerk, James Marwood  – standing amid the crowds one night in early September 1666 watching in horror as St. Paul’s Cathedral is burned almost to the ground.  He saves the life of a boy by dragging him away from the flames, only to discover that “he” i
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Let’s time travel back to 1666 and the Great Fire of London, in Andrew Taylor’s The Ashes of London, where the body of a man is found in the smoking ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral, stabbed in the neck, with his thumbs tied behind his back. So far, so good, and what unfolds from this is a delicious and vivid exploration of London society, and through a world of cheats and traitors, class and gender oppression, and a damn fine murder mystery. Absolutely central to my enjoyment of this book, apart fr ...more
A rather average murder/mystery set against the Great Fire of 1666. And of course, there will be plots and counter-plots from ex-Cromwell followers and Royalists.

I guess it's entertaining enough whilst driving in the car but I would have been simply bored if I had read this. At no point did I experience the nail biting excitement of An Instance of the Fingerpost. Though, admittedly, any book set in the same period with a similar premise would have had a difficult time at this point.

The narration
Maya Panika
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
A murder mystery set in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1666 and the political turmoil left in the wake of the Civil War, the failed Commonwealth and the restoration of the monarchy. The Puritans have grown older but they have not gone away and some of the more fanatical, the ‘Fifth Monarchists’, still seek to do away with the king and pave the way for ‘King Jesus’. The story pivots on two characters: Cat Lovett, the daughter of a fugitive regicide; a spirited teenager who dreams of becoming ...more
Jan 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
What can I say, I love historical thrillers, and this book is interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Have found a new author to add to my list, and look forward to more novels in this series.

Will recommend to everyone who, like me, love historical crime.

I won this novel in the Goodreads Firstread giveaway.
Bill Kupersmith
Mar 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars-in-2016
In The Ashes of London, Andrew Taylor continues to demonstrate that he is England's most outstanding creator of historical mystery thrillers. In his three most recent novels his settings have been New York in the War of American Independence, France & England in the early days of the French Revolution, & now Restoration London in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1666. For purely personal reasons, I found this last was the slowest, but then I used to pass for a student of Restoration &a ...more
The first book in a new series by Andrew Taylor set in Restoration London.

James Marwood is the son of a traitor, and employed by the man who runs the London Gazette. When a dead body turns up in the burned out ruins of St Paul's Cathedral, James must work with his master, and those above him, to find out what happened at why.

James is lead deeper and deeper into a maze of lies, deceit, and treason - will he be able to get out, or will his father be back in the Tower for treason, and this time, Ja
Apr 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley.

I also filmed a video review for this book:

This is a historical thriller set in London, just after the great fire in 1666, and follows two main perspectives. The first is James Marwood, a reluctant government informer, and the second is a young woman named Cat, who is from a rich family and has been paired with an awful man who she doesn't want to be with. The perspectives swap
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
3.5 that I’m rounding up. Great historical detail, but the plot and the characters didn’t thrill me.
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
This was a quick read, but I agree with many of the other reviews on here:
1.) There isn't much of a mystery, I agree;
2.) There is a weird disconnect, or problems with the flow in the writing. At first there was plenty of rich, beautiful writing with amazing descriptions. And then that seems to fall away for the rest of the book? And there were times when it was a jarring kind of change in topic on the would start a new part, or change the topic so quickly it shocked the flow of reading
First Sentence: The noise was the worst.

A raging fire has destroyed part of London, including St. Paul’s Cathedral. In the remains is found a body. Not a victim of the fire, but someone who has been mutilated and with his thumbs tied together behind his back: a sign of those who committed Regicide by signing the death warrant for Charles I. Richard Marwood, a reluctant government informer and the son of one of those who committed treason, is charged with finding the killer. Cat Lovett, whose mis
Trigger warnings: rape, murder, gore, fire, eyeball trauma.

3.5 stars.

This book was gripping in the first couple of chapters. And then it got dull. And then it got exciting again. And then it got very dull. And then it picked up again towards the end. But for a decent chunk of the story, I kind of had to force myself to keep reading because I just wasn't that interested.

The premise is great - after the Great Fire of London, a body is found in St Paul's Cathedral with its hands tied behind its b
Paul Lima
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
I can see some people, with more patients than I have, enjoying this book. I enjoyed the first chapter very much, with London burning and people scampering as we meant main characters. After that, I got lost -- wasn't sure what was happening and didn't really care. There is some sexual stuff, some leaving home, some death, some becoming a servant, some working with architects... I presume London will be rebuilt, but I found the book unfocused and confusing.... So I gave up.
This was my first Andrew Taylor book and it's safe to say that it won't be my last. I hadn't heard much about his books or the author himself until this came up as a recommendation on Goodreads and I'm glad I decided to pick it up and give it a go. I thought it was very well written and researched, with the mid 17th century setting literally springing to life from the pages. The plot was, on the whole, an engaging one that kept me eagerly turning the pages (I learnt a lot about the Fifth Monarch ...more
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Ashes of London tells a gripping story which takes place in the wake of the Great Fire of London. Taylor is particularly adept at the historical novel in that his stories make one feel quite present: one can smell the smells, hear the sounds. It can feel so real as to be startling. (His earlier work, Bleeding Heart Square, was a case in point). As one reads this book one can virtually smell the smoke which overlays London, thick as the political plotting and religious convictions which turne ...more
This is a murder mystery set in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London. The story is split between James Marwood and Cat Lovett.

James is a young man struggling to keep a roof over his ailing father's head, recently released from prison for backing the wrong horse in the Restoration. He finds work with a government official but soon finds himself hunting for a young woman and her wanted father for an altogether more lofty personage.

Cat is a prickly young woman engaged to be married to a man
Aug 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
This could have been an enthralling read. It's well written, the time period is fascinating, and the author really seems to know his stuff about the history. Most notably, he really gets the city of London down! In fact London as a character is the best character in the story. But everything else is a bit flat. I kept putting this book down to read other books. I finally decided that I just didn't care about either protagonist enough to pick it back up, even though I'd read over half the book. I ...more
Winter Sophia Rose
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Informative, Riveting, Fascinating & Memorable! A Great Read! I Loved It!
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great backdrop filled with vivid historical detail. 3.5/5 stars.

This review was originally posted on my book blog.

The second book in this series – The Fire Court – is coming out on 5th April and was available on NetGalley. It sounded interesting but, being a completist, I took the opportunity to go back and request the first book in the series. Always best to start at the beginning!

I haven’t read any historical fiction for a while and I’ve never read anything set in this specific period. I’m s
Pretty dull historical mystery with a bunch of characters who amble around and randomly collide at times. It wasn't even really a mystery, more of a protracted revenge tale wrung of any bit of tension or suspense.

The writing was also underwhelming, with one odd recurring sentence about a pack of mastiffs that the heroine often reminisces about (at least 4 times, word for word):

Thunder, Lion, Greedy, and Bare-arse. Especially Bare-arse.

Just kinda weird.

I highly doubt I'll give Taylor another go.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
I'm not a big fan of historical non-fiction but the idea presented by the title intrigued me. The great fire of London is one of the many little interests I have about the growth of mega cities. So I thought it would be a fun way to read more about this fact. Unfortunately, I learned little or nothing about the fire other than it happened. The story is more about intrigue and deception. Parts of the story are interesting because of the restoration epoque, but generally, unless you love historica ...more
Elizabeth Ducie
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was my first introduction to Andrew Taylor's novels and, on this basis, I will certainly be returning for more. An enthralling mystery set in 1666, during the Great Fire of London, it is full of detail that brings both the setting and the historical context alive for the reader. The style is easy to read, and reminded me of Sansom's Shardlake books or even, Peters' Cadfael mysteries, although obviously in a different historical period. Highly recommended.
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Andrew Taylor (b. 1951) is a British author of mysteries. Born in East Anglia, he attended university at Cambridge before getting an MA in library sciences from University College London. His first novel, Caroline Miniscule (1982), a modern-day treasure hunt starring history student William Dougal, began an eight-book series and won Taylor wide critical acclaim. He has written several other thrill ...more

Other books in the series

Marwood and Lovett (2 books)
  • The Fire Court (Marwood and Lovett, #2)
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