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Dark Fire

(Matthew Shardlake #2)

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  20,543 ratings  ·  1,212 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
Kindle Edition, 608 pages
Published September 4th 2008 by Pan Books (first published November 5th 2004)
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Adina I think it makes more sense. You would understand better the main character's behavior and feelings if you read Dissolution. Moreover, there are…moreI think it makes more sense. You would understand better the main character's behavior and feelings if you read Dissolution. Moreover, there are references to the the 1st installment. (less)
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Average rating 4.27  · 
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 ·  20,543 ratings  ·  1,212 reviews

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Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading C.J. Sansom and Caleb Carr I realised that I enjoy this new (for me) fascinating genre of historical mystery. I’ve read a few more authors since then but i still think Matthew Shardlake series to be one of the best. Well, at least the 2 volumes that I’ve read.

In Dark Fire, Thomas Cromwell is out of favour with Henry VIII because he blew it with the king’s 4th marriage with Anne of Cleaves. Although the political intentions were good, the new bride was too ugly and the poor man
Jeffrey Keeten
”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.”

 photo Greek20Fire_zpssm00oe48.jpg
A Byzantine ship uses Greek fire against a ship of the rebel, Thomas the Slav, 821. 12th century illustration from
‘I 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 them more.’

Torture 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
Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
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 ...more
Matthew Shardlake returns as the London lawyer reluctantly linked with Thomas Cromwell during Henry VIII’s reign. In 1540 King Henry is about to seek an annulment from Anne of Cleves, a wife he claimed he couldn’t consummate his marriage with because of her bad appearance. This was a marriage Cromwell encouraged, and then failed to find a way of avoiding when requested by Henry. In this tense political environment, Cromwell’s enemies close-in, and he must avoid any more disappointments
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Step back in time to the 16th century. Follow Matthew Shardlake through the stench of London, the political turmoil, unsolved mysteries, and the "justice and injustice that are not always easy to tell apart."

This was my second in the Shardlake series. I will definitely read them all as well as Winter in Madrid. Sansom does an exceptional job with the details of that period. I love getting a strong dose of accurate history while enjoying a compelling mystery.
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
Aug 13, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Slightly less engaging than Dissolution, this instalment follows Shardlake as he investigates two very different cases. The first, brought to him by a friend, challenges him to discover the truth behind the arrest and imprisonment of a girl who might be innocent of the murder of her young cousin; the second, and significantly more important, is directed by Cromwell, who demands an answer to the question of Greek Fire, a weapon of serious destructive power which might provide the best
May 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Enjoyable very well written historical fiction using real events and figures to tell and influence the crimes and mysteries that populate Dark Fire.

There are detailed and far longer reviews here in the Goodreads community that I could not better, so my summary is simply that Mr Sansom's strong central characters, and his finely balanced and nuanced writing supplemented, with good historical background that uses real people, places and events to give the reader a long, complex and rewarding tale
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
It’s been a hell of a long time since I read Dissolution. A good year and a half. I was weary about picking up this book after so long and I kept putting it off. However I’m pleased to say that I jumped straight back into this world as if it had been weeks not over a year. I think that should show you that Sansom’s writing is something special. I could remember the plot of the first one quite vividly, couple that with the fact this one is set a few years after the events of the first book and ...more
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.
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, as promised, this one was better than the first (and I really enjoyed the first one). By now of course there is a bond with Matthew Shardlake and some of the returning characters around him. The mysteries were engrossing and often unexpected, with the turmoil of Summer, 1540 a perfect backdrop - political turmoil, King Henry deciding he wants another divorce and a time of religious upheaval and confusion. It's fascinating and brilliantly done.
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
This second in the Matthew Shardlake series was actually my first time reading this series and I found that it certainly deserves every praise that it has received and more. I actually finished this book early last week but for one reason or other haven’t gotten down to it until now.

Greek Fire or dark fire as it is also called was something I first came across in the Tradewinds Caravans game, and it is this mysterious weapon of the past, something that belongs to the realms of alchemists, and
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
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 02, 2013 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
Feb 23, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...more
Michael Cattigan
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
Angela Gibson
I attempted to finish this book in one day because I couldn't stop reading it. Eventually the need for sleep pushed Dark Fire to a two day read.

My favorite part was Sansom making all of the historical facts fit into the fiction of his mystery, and I enjoyed the history even more than the mystery.
Karen Witzler
Love the details of the law courts, religious reforms, etc. -- but was put off by the central crime in this one --- but will still move quickly to Book Three.
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Pam Baddeley
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading books 1, 5 and 6 of this series I managed to obtain this earlier volume. It is interesting to see in this book certain aspects of Shardlake's character and situation being set up which have borne fruit in later volumes. And also here is the first example of the structure I have seen in the later books where Shardlake has to juggle two cases at once.

The story starts when a man called Joseph engages Shardlake to help in the case of his accused niece Elizabeth who, following the death
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Goodreads Librari...: Merge editions 3 19 Jun 30, 2017 12:02PM  
Combine editions 1 5 Jun 20, 2017 03:49PM  
Tudor History Lovers: April 2016 - Dark Fire, by C.J. Sansom 20 72 Apr 06, 2016 10:36AM  
Historical Fictio...: Group Series: Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake #2) 19 120 Jan 22, 2014 12:45PM  

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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

Other books in the series

Matthew Shardlake (7 books)
  • Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake, #1)
  • Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake, #3)
  • Revelation (Matthew Shardlake, #4)
  • Heartstone (Matthew Shardlake, #5)
  • Lamentation (Matthew Shardlake, #6)
  • Tombland (Matthew Shardlake, #7)
“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.” 3 likes
“... there is nothing under the moon, however fine, that is not subject to corruption.” 1 likes
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